Understanding Diastasis Recti: A Common Condition During and After Pregnancy

Understanding Diastasis Recti: A Common Condition During and After Pregnancy

If you’ve ever felt that nagging back pain during or after pregnancy, you’re definitely not alone. Many new moms experience this, and while it might just seem like a typical part of motherhood, strengthening your core can play a huge role in preventing and recovering from this discomfort. It's not just about getting back into shape; it's about nurturing your body's foundation to support you through the incredible journey of pregnancy and beyond. Let’s dive into why this happens and how focusing on core strength can really make a difference.

What is Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis recti is a medical condition where the right and left halves of the abdominal muscles, specifically the rectus abdominis, spread apart. This separation occurs along the linea alba, the connective tissue that runs down the middle of the abdomen. While diastasis recti can happen to anyone, it is particularly prevalent among pregnant women due to the increased tension on the abdominal wall from the growing uterus.

How Common Is Diastasis Recti During Pregnancy?

Diastasis recti is quite common during pregnancy. Research suggests that up to two-thirds of pregnant women may experience it. The condition becomes more likely as the uterus expands, particularly in the third trimester when the baby is growing rapidly. It can also be influenced by multiple pregnancies, pregnancies close in time, large babies, or women over 35. 

Connection Between Diastasis Recti and Back Pain

The separation of the abdominal muscles can lead to a decrease in core stability and strength. This instability is not just cosmetic; it impacts bodily functions, primarily posture and the support of the spine. As a result, many women with diastasis recti experience back pain both during and after pregnancy. This occurs because the core muscles, which include the abdominals, are integral to supporting the back and helping to distribute the weight of the uterus during pregnancy.

How to Check for Diastasis Recti

Checking for diastasis recti is relatively simple and can be done at home:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Place one hand behind your head, and the other hand on your abdomen, with your fingertips across your midline at the level of your belly button.
  3. Lift your head and shoulders off the floor into a mini-crunch, ensuring your abdominal muscles engage.
  4. Feel for any gaps between the edges of the muscles that are more than 2-3 finger widths apart.

If you detect a gap, it’s a good idea to consult with a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and guidance.


Ways to Repair Diastasis Recti

While surgery is an option for severe cases, many women can improve diastasis recti through specific exercises aimed at strengthening the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. Here are some strategies to consider:

    • Breathing: 360 Breathing is a particular technique that helps with connecting to the Transverse Abdominus (TVA). This muscle is also called our ‘internal corset’. When activated, it tightens everything into the spine at the midline, and helps with stiffening the spine. This is why it’s considered the most important protector of our spine and a key muscle in back pain prevention.

  • Engage in targeted exercises: It's crucial to avoid certain activities that can exacerbate the separation, such as crunches, sit-ups, or any exercise that strains the midline or causes the abdominal wall to bulge outward. Isometric movements like Bird Dogs are great way to work on building back the connection as it helps engage the TVA.
  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist specializing in postpartum recovery can design a personalized exercise program that progressively rebuilds the strength and functionality of the abdominal muscles.

  • Wear a supportive garment: Some healthcare providers may recommend wearing a supportive belt or garment to help hold the abdominal muscles together, promoting healing and decreasing discomfort during activities.

Diastasis recti is a widespread but manageable condition affecting many pregnant and postpartum women. Recognizing the signs and engaging in appropriate exercises can significantly help manage and potentially reverse this condition. Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new exercise regimen, especially if you suspect diastasis recti.

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