Diastasis Recti, also called diastasis rectus abdominis or rectus diastasis, is a condition where the connective tissue found in between the abdomen becomes too stretched out that it is no longer capable of holding the abdominal muscles in place which causes them to separate.
The abdominal separation occurs because the pressure of the growing baby inside the womb has caused too much stretched the connective tissue known as the linea alba. The organs in the abdomen can sometimes press out in between the gap in severe diastasis cases because of the lack of elasticity, stability and strength.
The risk of experiencing this condition may increase for women with more than one child due to repeated stretching of the abdomen.
How to Determine if You Have Diastasis Recti
This condition can easily be diagnosed by a women’s health physiotherapist, but you can perform a diastasis recti test on your own by following these simple steps:
Step 1. Lie on your back. Bend your knees and make sure that the soles of your feet are firmly planted on the floor.
Step 2. Place one hand on the back of your hand and the other on your abs. Place your fingers on your midline—in the area at the same level of your belly button and parallel with your waistline.
Step 3. Relax your abdominal wall then gently and slowly press your fingertips on your abdomen.
Step 4. Perform a crunch by bringing your rib cage closer to the pelvic area.
Step 5. Let your fingers run across the midline area. Try to feel if there is a gap between your rectus abdominus muscle. Now check an inch above and below your belly button.
5 Tips on How to Fix Diastasis Recti
If you have abdominal separation, you need to treat it right away. Sometimes, diastasis will resolve on its own within just a few weeks to months. But in 40% of women, diastasis recti lingers which lead to various functional and aesthetic problems as time goes by. In 66% of women with diastasis, pelvic floor issues such as incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse also exist.
To prevent this, there are some things that you can do. Here are some of them:
1. Eat the right foods.
It is no surprise that what we eat can affect how well our body recovers and heals. Proper nutrition can aid in the repair processes of our body, and as much as we hate to admit it, imbalanced diet can impede recovery.
Keep in mind that your abdominal muscles are made up of collagen fibres so what you need in your diet are foods that are rich in vitamins C (kiwis, oranges and berries) and A (kale, carrots and sweet potatoes) along with the minerals—zinc (nuts, beans and seeds), protein (meat and eggs), iron (broccoli and beef), and essential fatty acids (fishes). All of these work hand in hand to boost collagen production which can bring back elasticity to your muscles.
2. Strengthen your core.
There are plenty of exercises that can help you regain the strength of your core and ultimately, create strength and stability across your abdomen. However, you should avoid (at least initially) doing crunches or sit-ups because these exercises tend to place a great amount of pressure on the pelvic floor and abdominals causing the muscles to separate more.
Instead, you should try out gentler diastasis recti exercises like engaging your transversus abdominis msucles (the deepest layer of your abdominal muscles), and keeping this engaged as you exercise.
3. Practice diaphragm breathing.
When you breathe through your diaphragm and not through your upper chest or belly, the pressure inside the abdomen will be relieved.
To practice diaphragmatic breathing, lie on your back and place your hands on the sides of your rib cage. Try to breathe in a way that you can feel your rib cage expanding sideways outwards and backwards as you inhale.
4. Check out your body alignment.
As mentioned above, the separation of the abdominal muscles is caused by too much pressure due to the growing baby. Because of this, one of the best ways to fix diastasis recti is to lower the intra-abdominal pressure, and you can do that by realigning your body and finding good posture.
To properly re-align your body, you need to make sure that your three main body cavities (abdominal, pelvic and thoracic) are linked in a vertical line. In short, you should avoid thrusting out your ribs, tucking your butt under and bending your knees.
5. Do pelvic floor exercises.
These are sometimes called kegel exercises and are considered to be one of the most useful exercises for diastasis recti because these can help activate the deep trasnversus abdominis. You can perform these exercises throughout pregnancy too.
Bonus Tip: Wear abdominal brace or wrap.
The practice of wearing abdominal wraps and brace has been performed for decades already. But nowadays, there is controversy regarding the effect of using braces to diastasis recti since doing so will make your abdominal muscles dependent on the brace, decreasing their chances of gaining their strength back. It is recommended to wear the brace for 3 weeks after birth, but beyond that, you must engage in core retraining exercises.
Healing from diastasis recti is not just about getting rid of a bulging tummy—it is about bringing back the function of your abdominal muscles too. In addition to that, fixing abdominal separation can also help you to avoid various problems like low back pain, urinary incontinence, gastrointestinal issues (bloating and constipation), and poor posture.