Preventing or Limiting Diastasis Recti During Pregnancy

Diastasis Recti is the tearing of tissue in your abdomen.  The torn tissue is the linea alba which holds together the rectus abdominus.  The Rectus abdominus is the wall of muscle in the front of your abdomen.  Actually, it as made of two walls of muscle, or columns, held together by a zipper-like tissue, these columns are what form your “six pack”.

About 30% of women experience this tearing through pregnancy and/or childbirth.  The amount of tearing varies and depends on; the strength and elasticity of the tissue prior to pregnancy, the amount of swelling of the abdomen (more common with multiple births) and the length and intensity of delivery.   Most of the time, this tearing is not dangerous and will not hinder your everyday life.   However, depending on the severity, you may experience a lack of mobility, back and pelvic pain resulting from overworking of the stabilizer muscles, a hernia and permanent tissue damage.  In addition, certain movements may exacerbate the injury and prolong the healing process and if the healing is incomplete before conceiving again this can cause even more problems the second time around.

While diastasis recti is for the most part, harmless enough, many physicians, physio- therapists, and trainers believe that it is more prevalent than it should be.  In other words, there is a number of women out there who can minimize the tearing if not prevent it all together.   A proper diet to fuel the healing process and keep tissues strong and elastic as well as practicing breathing techniques can help minimize the tearing.  In addition, a number of simple core exercises practiced pre pregnancy or during can help prevent the tearing for some women.  The same exercises, with a variety of others, can be performed postpartum to help the healing process, strengthen the pelvic floor and lower back.

If you have Diastasis recti or would like to do your best to prevent it, find a personal trainer, preferably one who has specialized in prenatal/postnatal fitness or one who is familiar with this injury.   If you have a trainer and they are prescribing sit-ups, crunches or core exercises with major rotations…find another trainer.

The safest exercises are simple with small movements that activate the transverse abdominus and the anterior pelvic floor muscle.  A number of exercises simply require you to ‘draw in’ your belly – pulling your belly button towards your spine – while lying down, kneeling, sitting or standing.  Eventually, movement can be added, or positions can be altered to activate the lower back muscles, glutes and so on.    In some cases, when the separation is more severe, a wrap may be used to bring the rectus abdominus together as you practice your exercises.

If you want to find out if you have diastasis recti follow these simple instructions and do not panic if the separation seems severe, just act sooner than later to start the healing process:

Lie down with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor as if to do a sit-up or crunch.

Place your fingers on your abdomen just above your belly button.  We measure the diastasis by finger width so place your hand palm down and fingers pointing towards your feet.

Slowly lift your head, neck and shoulders off the ground as if doing a crunch and feel for a gap in the center of your abdomen.  If you feel a gap the width of a finger or more, that is diastasis, you may feel your muscles close in around your fingers as you perform the crunch.  You can repeat this test, moving your fingers down your abdomen to feel the length of the separation but do not do too many crunches and perform them nice and slowly.

If a gap is there, notify your physician and find a trainer who can help you.  It might be costly, but proper guidance is paramount in avoiding long-term injury and pain.  If you eat well, minimize your stress and practice your exercises diligently the healing process can be a matter of weeks rather than a matter of months.

Good luck!

Joey Reid

5 Comments on “Preventing or Limiting Diastasis Recti During Pregnancy

  1. Pingback: Exercising in the childbearing year – safely maintain your physique and limit abdominal tearing |

  2. Joey,
    I so appreciate you getting the information out there for women and educating them about diastasis. While I like what you have written I have never heard the term tearing before in describing the separation. To me a tearing is a disruption of the tissues or fibers and in my experience diastasis is hardly ever a tear. It is my understanding that the linea alba stretches thin, it doesn’t tear. What I consider a tear is what I call an avulsion of the muscle belly away from the connective tissue, the linea alba. I’ve worked with hundreds of women with DR and you can feel a continuation of the linea alba tissue from one muscle belly to the other. There is no disruption in the tissue. When you feel a hole in the connection between linea alba and muscles that is an avulsion. Avulsions are pretty rare and definitely need surgery to repair. Diastasis can be healed without any surgical intervention needed. I just needed to make this point as tearing to me doesn’t depict what’s really happening to the tissues.
    Thanks for your good work out there.

    • Thank you for reading, and good point. While I too have worked with a number of clients with actual tearing, it is rare and more commonly known as separation or thinning or stretching. Perhaps I should make a note in the post.



  3. Good post! I read your blog often and you always post excellent content. I posted this article on Facebook and my followers like it. Thanks for writing this!

  4. whoa1h this blog is great i love reading your posts. Keep up the great work! You know, a lot of people are looking around for this information, you can aid them greatly.

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