Get ready for an epic Dwight Schrute impression:
Fact: 100% of women who have had a full-term pregnancy have had some degree of diastasis recti.
(Clearly, I missed my calling as an impersonator.)
Fact: Studies like this one have also shown that 32.6% of women still have a diastasis recti 12 months after childbirth.
What was your first thought when you read the words “diastasis recti?”
- Are you still speaking English? What in the world is diastasis recti supposed to mean!?
- I’ve heard of diastasis recti, but I’m not sure exactly what it is or whether I have the condition.
- Ugh, my diastasis is the worst. I’m so self-conscious over it!
If any of those responses sounds like you, keep reading.
Together, we’re going to find out whether you have a diastasis recti, prevent it from getting worse, and fight to conquer this nefarious villain!
Diastasis Recti is Not a Pasta Dish.
It’s an Unwelcome Tummy Pooch.
To prepare for battle, you must start by studying your opponent.
Simply put, a diastasis recti is an abdominal separation. The two sides of your “six pack” muscles are connected with a band of tissue called the linea alba (not to be confused with Jessica Alba).
To accommodate the growing baby inside, a pregnant woman’s belly begins to stretch (shocker, right?), and the linea alba and abdominal muscles stretch and separate.
For some women, the separated abdominal muscles grow back together after childbirth. But for many, they are still separated months—even years—after giving birth.
Many women don’t even know they have a diastasis and wonder why they still look 5 months pregnant after giving birth.
Reasons Why Diastasis Recti Has No Friends
Anyone can get a diastasis recti—including men (so, clearly, childbirth is not the only risk factor here). But, there are certain risk factors that can contribute, including:
- Having twins/multiples
- Abdominal surgeries (c-sections, etc.)
- More than one pregnancy, especially when they are close together
- Heavy lifting (because how can we not lift our children?!)
And, having a diastasis recti can cause complications, such as:
- Lower back pain
- Difficulty having a vaginal delivery
- Pelvic floor weakness and incontinence
How to Tell if You’ve Had a Visit
from the Diastasis Recti Fairy
If you live in France, you’re in luck: In France, doctors check postpartum women for diastasis recti before they leave the hospital.
You’re probably thinking: That’s nice, but I don’t live in France. (Unless, of course, you do live in France, in which case I doubt that’s what you’re thinking.)
Fortunately for the rest of us, it’s not difficult to check yourself for diastasis recti. Beth, the expert over at Fit2B Studios walks you through how to quickly check yourself for this condition. It’s crazy easy. All you have to do is feel your stomach for a heartbeat.
The WRONG Diastasis Recti
Now that you’ve got a pretty good idea that you’ve had a visit from the Diastasis Recti Fairy, it’s easy to feel tempted to jump right in and start hacking away at this enemy.
If you don’t know the right Rules of Engagement, you could accidentally make things WORSE!
Even seasoned warriors had to initially learn which end of the sword to hold (i.e. not the pointy end). So, you’ll be wise to take a step back and get a feel for the battle at hand.
Diastasis Recti Battle Techniques You Want to Avoid:
- Don’t panic! In most cases, there are ways to work on healing this condition. You’re not allowed to panic or concede defeat unless your doctor has said so!
- Crunches, sit-ups, and burpees are a really bad idea. Crunches and sit-ups can make a diastasis recti even worse. Instead, try a crunchless ab workouts like these great (free) ones.
- Don’t do other exercises that aren’t diastasis-friendly. Planks, anything on hands and knees, push-ups, swimming, tennis, and even yoga can worsen a diastasis. For a diastasis-recti-friendly postnatal workout, pick up this great DVD set from Sara Haley (the lady in the video above). Or try this postnatal workout that includes modifications for diastasis recti.
- Avoid straining your abdominal muscles. Heavy lifting or other straining (*cough cough* constipation *cough*) can make that gap bigger. (If constipation is an issue for you, check out these postpartum constipation suggestions. Practice those techniques to keep yourself nice and regular!)
As always, you’ll also want to discuss your condition with your doctor. It’s important that you find a doctor or physical therapist who is familiar with diastasis recti. She will know the latest research to advise you on things to adjust and change.
The Best Diastasis Recti Weapons:
Exercises That Will Make a Difference
Research shows appropriate exercise will help a diastasis recti in almost all cases, making exercise the most crucial weapon in this fight.
Even if surgery ends up being the only complete solution, exercises can help your body heal itself and get your muscles ready for the surgery to work well. Many women find that proper exercises help enough that they reach a state of functional diastasis and don’t need surgery.
If you are pregnant or planning to be, think prevention. Work on your deep core muscles now to minimize diastasis recti later.
Fit2B Studios has had a high success rate in restoring those core abdominals. It’s not too late for your core to feel strong again!
Fit2B Studios: Strengthen Your Core in 10 Minutes
Fit2B Studios is a comprehensive online workout program designed to help busy mothers find small cracks of workout time into their busy schedule. You can do the exercises on your phone, tablet, or stream to your TV.
Beth offers more than 200 workouts that last less than 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 25 minutes, or more than 30 minutes. Every single workout addresses diastasis recti in different ways. Click here to learn about their monthly only membership for full access.
Beth’s online course on diastasis recti is so comprehensive, professionals can take it for continuing certification credits. This means you know you’re getting the very best research and latest techniques. Click here to learn about the Diastasis Expert Program.
Even if you end up not having diastasis recti, Beth has an extremely gentle workout program to help your postpartum body return to normal as soon as it is healthy to do so. Click here to learn about her postpartum workouts.
The RIGHT Diastasis Recti
Operation: Conquer Diastasis Recti is ready to commence!
You’ve selected your primary weapon, right? That’s really important, but it’s only part of the victory plan.
In addition to exercise, make sure to add some of these secondary weapons to your repertoire to vanquish this villain.
#1) Update Your Wardrobe
As you work on healing those abs, find clothes that will help you feel like the awesome mama you are!
Grab some high-waisted Jag Jeans or Tummy Trimmer Denim (they have a compression panel on top!), a cami for underneath and a patterned, flowy blouse. This perfect battle armor may even make you forget all about your diastasis recti for a while.
You’ll also love this article that shows how to dress up your yoga pants in less than 5 minutes. (So you can look awesome outside the home too.)
#2) Eat Well
Eating healthy foods is crucial to helping your body’s repair processes. Inflammatory foods like sugar, alcohol, caffeine, trans fats, and processed foods will hinder your body’s ability to heal your injured core. Fresh fruits and veggies and good proteins are the way to go.
Speaking of protein, collagen is the most critical protein to help your connective tissue heal. This high-quality collagen powder can be mixed right into your morning coffee or smoothie!
#3) Use Proper Posture
Posture and alignment are key in restoring your core because they help you address the unnecessary pressure that caused the diastasis in the first place.
For starters, nix those heeled shoes. Heels are downright awful for your posture, so pick up these flats. They’re cute AND good for your body. It’s a win-win!
Then, check out these great tips by Emily from Diastasis Rectified for incorporating proper alignment into your everyday activities.
#4) Read Up On Diastasis Recti
Pick up a copy of the book Diastasis Recti. (Bet you didn’t see that title coming, did you?) This book is awesome, because it presents a whole-body corrective program that addresses the issues that originally caused the abdominal separation.
#5) Try Some Physical Therapy
Many fellow diastasis recti mamas have had great success with physical therapy. You will want a therapist who specializes in pelvic floor and abdominal therapy.
Physical therapists can give special insight into how to get to the core of the issue (Get it? CORE? I’m so punny!), instruct you on proper exercise form, give targeted exercises, and provide personalized treatments based on which muscles need attention.
#6) Ask About Surgery
Sometimes, a diastasis recti can’t be healed through exercise and physical therapy alone. Especially if you have a hernia, you may be looking at surgery as your option for healing your diastasis.
Diastasis recti surgery is similar to a tummy tuck (abdominoplasty). This article provides a helpful overview. However, as with any medical treatment, you should discuss surgery with your doctor to decide whether the hefty price tag and intense recovery are going to be worth it in the long run.
The Final Blow to
Ladies, let’s take a minute to be really real with each other.
Some of you may be thinking, “(*sigh*) I tried all the exercises. I’m working really hard to defeat my diastasis, but those muscles just won’t budge. I feel like I always look pregnant. I am afraid to wear form-fitting clothes. I’m so discouraged.”
Friend, I’m so sorry that this condition has been a source of emotional pain for you. Honestly, I wish I could make it go away and make all our bodies perfectly strong and healthy.
The truth is: sometimes, a diastasis recti just won’t get 100% better.
Sometimes, defeating diastasis recti means defeating its power over you.
Your body grew a tiny human. These changes that have happened to your body are battle scars, Warrior Mama!
Do you know what’s more beautiful than flat, firm abs? A woman who is willing to sacrifice fleeting things to pour into the things that will last—like having and raising children.
So, don’t give that vicious diastasis any more power than it deserves. Don’t let it steal your joy. You are a champion, girl! And don’t you forget it!
How has diastasis recti affected you? What have you found helpful in your battle against it?
Have You Read These Yet?
3 Lies About Motherhood and the Truths That Will Set You Free
Time to get real, people. Time to actually tell the truth.
15 Things You Should Expect When Maternity Leave Ends
I know it’s hard to think about. Trust me, knowing these things AHEAD of time makes it easier!
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How to Spot and Treat a Diastasis Recti. TodaysParent.com
Abdominal Separation (Diastasis Recti). WebMD.com
How to Heal a Diastasis Recti After a C-Section. Worry-Free-C-Section.com
Does Everyone Get Diastasis Recti in Pregnancy? JessieMundell.com
Prevalence and Risk Factors of Diastasis Recti Abdominis from Late Pregnancy to 6 Months Postpartum, and Relationship with Lumbo-Pelvic Pain. Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.gov
Abs, Core, Pelvic Foor. AbsCorePelvicFloor.com
Diastasis Recti Abdominis During Pregnancy and 12 Months After Childbirth: Prevalence, Risk Factors, and Report of Lumbopelvic Pain. Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.gov
Diastasis Recti and Pregnancy: “Closing the Gap” Between Current Treatment Practices and Clinical Evidence. TorontoPhysiotherapy.ca
Diastasis Recti (Separated Abdominal Muscles After Birth). FitBirthAndBeyondRachelleOseran.Wordpress.com
How to Tell if You Need Diastasis Recti Surgery. HealthLine.com
Julia Tupler Talking at the First World Hernia Conference. DiastasisRehab.com
Hernia Abstracts PDF. DiastasisRehab.com
Eat Well to Heal Your Diastasis Recti – How Good Nutrition Can Help Your Body to close “The Gap.” InspiredRD.com
Changing Habits for Diastasis Recti Healing. DiastasisRectified.com
In addition to being a wife, stay-at-home mom, and regular writer here at Mighty Moms, Christi does freelance graphic design work, and manages her Etsy shop. She also enjoys photography, fine art, spending time with family and friends, being organized, chocolate, reading, and being outdoors. Get to know her better!