Pregnancy is such an exciting time in a woman’s life, especially if it is the first baby! And what’s even better is being able to carry that baby and then later run around after them at the park. Unfortunately, I see way too many women in my office that can’t do those things and the big culprit is diastasis recti. That’s just the fancy (medical) term for a separation between your abdominal muscles. As your belly expands with a growing baby, the abdominal muscles begin to pull apart from each other down the center of your stomach.
What’s the big deal with it? Well for starters, it is very common in women to get one while pregnant. However, you ideally want those muscles to go back to where they were and often times they don’t. When the muscles separate too much, you can begin to have a bulge in the middle of your stomach and that is essentially your intestines pushing through similar to a hernia. It also means that the abdominal muscles can’t work very efficiently when they are stretched apart so much. This can lead to other issues such as low back pain and pelvic floor dysfunction because you no longer have a stable core.
In order to determine if you have a diastasis, lie on your back with your knees bent. Place your fingertips over your belly button and lift your head and neck slightly. If you fill a gap where your fingers are, that is a separation of the muscles. Repeat this slightly above and below the belly button. It’s considered a diastasis recti if the gap is 2-3 fingers wide or larger.
If you have a diastasis, it is best to have a specialized set of exercises from a physical therapist for this. Everyone starts at a different stage in regards to core strength and stabilization so reading exercises on the internet may not be the best thing for you specifically. We offer a post-partum package here that has core as one of it’s focuses so if you’re close by to Milwaukee, check us out. If you’re pregnant (regardless of a diastasis or not) or recently had a baby, do not even both doing crunches. For starters, it doesn’t do much for your core strength. It doesn’t work the stabilizing muscles that you need. And most importantly, it increases the pressure inside your abdomen which can put you at risk for forming a diastasis or make it much worse. So just stop with the crunches…
Feel free to comment or email me at Brenda@Revitalize-PT.com if you have any questions about diastasis recti. And you can always check out our website for our therapy packages that focus on pregnancy and postpartum.