Diastasis recti is a fairly common condition of pregnancy and postpartum in which the right and left halves of Rectus Abdominis muscle spread apart at the body’s mid line fascia, the linea alba.
Widening and thinning of the mid line tissue occurs in response the force of the uterus pushing against the abdominal wall, in conjunction with pregnancy hormones that soften connective tissue. A mid line of more than 2 to 2.5 finger-widths, or 2 centimeters, is considered problematic. Diastasis recti can occur anytime in the last half of pregnancy but is most commonly seen after pregnancy when the abdominal wall is lax and the thinner mid line tissue no longer provides adequate support for the torso and internal organs.
A small amount of widening of the mid line happens in all pregnancies and is normal. Diastasis recti occurs in about 30% of all pregnancies. Some postpartum women’s mid lines close to less than 2 finger-widths spontaneously, but for many, the tissue remains too wide, causing problems.
Diastatsis recti reduces the integrity and functional strength of the abdominal wall and can aggravate lower back pain and pelvic instability. Separation in a previous pregnancy significantly increases the probability, and severity, of the condition in subsequent pregnancies. Women expecting more than one baby, petite women, those with a pronounced sway back, or with poor abdominal muscle tone are at greatest risk. Genetics also plays a big role. For some women, it simply how their bodies respond to pregnancy.
- What causes the abdominal muscles to split apart like this?
- Sustained intra-abdominal pressure: pregnancy, posture, bloating, constipation, obesity.
- Repetitive, forceful stress on the connective tissue of the abdominals: Bearing down while pushing during bowel movements or labor. Athletics that require arching. Exercise activities that bulge the area: sit ups, crunches, planks, v-sits
- Abdominal surgery, severing the connection of nerves and muscles (i.e. mind/body)
- What kind of health problems does it cause?
- A weakened abdominal wall does not support the organs for them to function properly, leading to bowel displacement, herniation, and prolapse. A lax transverse allows the internal organs to rest upon the pelvic floor, increasing incontinence “leaking.”
- A split in the abdominal wall causes weakness of all the abdominal layers, since they are all conjoined by the linea alba (seam of pants)
- A deflated TVA leaves the lower back unsupported, and chronic injury sets in, radiating out from the core in a chain reaction > sore back > compressed discs > neck & leg pain…
- All of the above act to diminish a person’s desire and ability to exercise!
- What can I do to fix my diastasis or at least prevent it from getting worse
- Seek abdominal rehab with a physiotherapist.
- Belly Breathe: Air goes out, navel goes in. Practice holding or gently pulsing at the bottom of the exhale, pulling your belly button inward, under your ribs.
- Pay attention to your posture
- Avoid crunch-like motions, situps, planks and high-impact activities. You may resume planks, running and jumping ONLY once your split is closed and you have core control.