You made it through the pregnancy, gave birth, and had your body stretched out in ways you thought may have not been possible. Now that you are recovering from birth, you may be curious, what just happened to my abdominals?
If you think performing crunches or other abdominal work within the first several weeks of your postpartum recovery will help…. keep reading!
First, let's quickly review what is Diastisis Recti (DR)? It is a separation or thinning of the linea alba. Linea alba is the thin connective tissue that connects the rectus abdominis muscles in the middle. It is very common for some separation to occur during pregnancy. Diastasis recti is defined as a 2 finger width separation or gap between the rectus abdominis muscle. You want to check for width AND depth. Diastasis recti can occur above the belly button, at the belly button and below the belly button. The thinnest part of the linea alba is right above the belly button (hello, umbilical hernia!).
How do we assess if we have a DR? Please watch my video HERE on how to assess for a DR. Note it is important to check along the entire linea alba and in all positions. Meaning, check yourself lying down, sitting, standing, and in the plank position. It may seem okay in the lying down position, but once in the plank position, you may be bulging. We will be going more in-depth about assessment later on!
It's important to avoid exercise that puts too much stress and loading on your anterior core. This will make a Diastisis worse. For example, stay away from performing front planks, push-ups, V-sits, crunches and burpees. Also, avoid indirect front loading exercises such as squats, deadlifts, pull-ups and standing arm work.
Can a diastasis heal on its own? Possibly! I know many women who have healed a DR without surgery, including myself. It really depends on how much damage to the fascial tissue occurred. Usually, diastasis can heal conservatively with exercise if properly done. First, we must regain and focus on proper posture and breathing, which can be difficult after giving birth. Once our bodies are in correct alignment, we can then focus on gentle strengthening of the core and pelvic floor muscles. As your core and pelvic floor become stronger, then exercises can be progressed to a more difficult level.
Diastisis Recti is very common in postpartum women. I encourage you to check yourself for a diastasis (about 6-8 weeks postpartum) before beginning any exercise program.
The goal is to be able to perform your daily functional tasks- such as squats, bending, lifting your baby or car seat, and carrying objects with proper form and loading of your abdominals.
In the next few weeks, we will be looking deeper into the assessment and treatment for diastasis recti.
Hope this helps and please reach out with any questions you may have! And if you'd like more support and helpful tips for your health and fitness goals, come join us over in the Healthy Mama Huddle group on Facebook!