Diastasis Recti: Considerations about the abdominal gap
One of the worst fears for moms, new and experienced, is what happens to our body during pregnancy and after giving birth. As a woman and as part of this society we have a constant fear of gaining too much weight. This leads to a constant straining of the abdominal muscles and to hard abdominal training during pregnancy as well as to the constant fear of quickly recovering our pre-pregnancy shape right after the baby is born.
We end up forgetting many facts precisely about the way our body changes during pregnancy: the hormonal changes the change in posture and in the center of gravity, the fact that we have to give some time to our body in order to recover from all the changes that take place during this period of our life. Sometimes, precisely because the hormonal changes, a bad posture and excessive training or pressure in our abdominal area, a condition called Diastasis Recti develops.
What is it?
Diastasis Recti (following the Greek origins of the word) translates as: separation of the abdominal muscles: What happens is that the Rectus Abdomini muscles spread in the mid line because of a series of reasons related precisely to the hormonal and physical changes that take place during pregnancy.
Well, this condition, that is more common than you may think, develops during pregnancy and continues after giving birth, but there is really nothing to worry because it can be both prevented and treated with the right exercises and a few changes in our everyday life.
How do I prevent Diastasis Recti from happening?
Some factors to prevent Diastasis Recti from happeningare related to being conscious of our posture and of the amount of pressure on the abdominal walls; here are some tips to prevent this condition from happening during pregnancy:
- Careful with bad posture: Before considering any exercise at all to prevent Diastasis Recti, you must become aware of your posture. This may be more difficult than expected if we consider thatyou´ve probably had a bad posture before pregnancy, but you canonly start trying strength exercises after you become aware of your posture.
- Try not to do back arch stretches or exercises that clearly put pressure on your abdominal zone:Exercises as planks, back stretches of any kind, yoga poses that require oblique twists or the one commonly known as cow pose (Bitilasana) and crunches in general. They will only exert more pressure on the abdominal wall and they will cause pain in the lumbar zone.
- Learn how to stand up straight: It´s very common for pregnant woman to end up standing up sticking their belly up front, this is due to the shift in the gravity center of the body, but it´s really important not to let the weight determine how you stand up. The best posture is to stand up trying to alignthe shoulders and hips and to sit down with the back straight and feet on the floor. When done consistently, the body will adapt better to the new weight and gravity shift and it will not exert pressure on the abdominal walls.
Strengthening our core
Now that we talked about posture let´s move on to the exercises that strengthen our core muscles and help us prevent Diastasis Recti. First, you really need to increase the flexibility and strength of your abdominal wall so you need to target this specific area without exerting pressure on it (sounds difficult but it really is not as difficult as you may think).
Diastasis Recti is a condition that can be healed properly.
The main recommended exercise to strengthen your abdomen during pregnancy is a core contraction that can be done only about 10 times daily to guarantee good results. For this exercise, you should sit up straight in an exercise mat, legs crossed and hand over the abdomen, and then slowly contract the abdomen as you breathe and hold both contraction and breath for about 30 seconds and then slowly release.
You can do slow intensity exercises such as swimming, walking or aerobic exercises (always remembering to mind your posture).
Now, what happens if you have Diastasis Recti after pregnancy?
First you need to be sure about that, you should check for this condition following 4 simple steps:
- Lie down on the floor
- Put your fingertips horizontally above your bellybutton
- Curl up just a bit as if you were doing a crunch
- Feel with your fingertips searching for a gap that separates your abdominal walls (a gap of more than 2 to 2.5 finger-widths, is considered problematic but don´t panic if you feel the gap after the first few weeks of giving birth, give it a few weeks to perform this test properly).
See this video from Mutu System for visual help when testing Diastasis recti:
You should also have a doctor check for this condition if you suspect of having developed it. Now let´s talk about some exercises that help close the Diastasis in a safe and correct manner (Take into consideration that is a condition that is treatable but not right away, every woman should wait at least 6 weeks post-partum before beginning any postnatal reconditioning routine).
The recommended exercises to recover from Diastasis Recti are actually not ab exercises, but they will help strengthen our core and help close the gap and focus on the transverse abdominis, they include Side planks, glute bridges, squats and wall sits,pull-ups and single leg deadlifts. A recovery routine should be done on a daily basis and at the pace required by your own body, don´t rush into exercising and remember that your body needs time to heal properly. Don´t panic, Diastasis Recti is a condition that can be healed properly.