Diastasis Recti – How to Avoid Ab Separation and How to Heal (Moms)

Michelle Stanger
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A woman’s body is full of beauty and magic. The ability to grow, nourish, and deliver another human being into this world is truly amazing. But as beautiful and miraculous pregnancy and childbirth are, they also bring drastic changes to our body.
 

As women, it is important to find gratitude for what our bodies can create and to even embrace the changes our bodies experience.

 
But some changes in our body may not be for the best and can actually cause post-natal pain and/or discomfort. One common change after childbirth is diastasis recti (or ab separation). Most moms will experience some degree of ab separation, so it is important to be aware of this condition.
 

What is Diastasis Recti?

One common and unpleasant change in our body after pregnancy is diastasis recti or the separation of the abdominals. Diastasis recti occurs when the growing uterus in our belly actually separates the parallel muscles of our abdominals. And if you’re an active mom-to-be, diastasis recti is even more likely to occur. So it is important to be aware of diastasis recti in order to avoid it and learn more about it to help improve any current ab separation.
 

Can You Avoid Diastasis Recti When You Are Pregnant?

Picture your growing baby in your belly and how much your belly needs to expand to make room for baby. Now picture your abdominals as part of this same expanding belly and how easily they could separate during pregnancy (which they slightly do in every pregnancy) as your belly grows.
 

The best thing you can do to avoid diastasis recti is to keep clear of any movement that puts added pressure on the abdominal wall.

 
diastasis-recti-diagram
 
Many active moms are advised to avoid crunches and intense core work during their pregnancy. This advice is not just to keep to your baby safe, but to help avoid diastasis recti as well. Any movement that invites your stomach to “blow out” or expand (such as sit ups) will add to the pressure on your abdominals and growing belly.
 
Another movement that can cause ab separation is the intense contraction of your abdominals. If your yoga practice or workout requires extreme core activation (standing or sitting), then you are adding to the pressure on your abdominal wall. So becoming aware of these movements- and learning how to modify or skip them during your pregnancy – is key to avoiding diastasis recti.
 

 

How to Tell If You Have Diastasis Recti

As mentioned above, every mom will experience some degree of abdominal separation with her pregnancy, but some more than others. One of the first signs of diastasis recti is the visual separation of the connective tissue (linea alba) between the abdominals. Many refer to it as the “mom pooch” or “belly pooch” which can be extremely difficult to lessen, no matter how strict the diet or exercise routine.
 

How to check for diastasis recti:

  • Begin reclined on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the mat
  • Place your fingers just below your sternum and slowly walk your fingers down the midline to feel your linea alba (see diagram above)
  • Notice if the connective tissue is extremely stretched. Can you really press down in certain areas?
  • Once you reach your belly button completely relax your abdominals
  • Press your fingertips down and lift your head and shoulders off the mat to engage your core
  • While your core is engaged, feel for muscles on each side of your fingers. Is there any space between your core muscles? If so, note how many fingers can fit in between the abdominals as well as how deep the fingers can press into the abdomen
  • When complete, gently release your head and shoulders to the mat
  • Then continue the same test above the navel and closer to your pubic bone
  • If you find a 2 to 3 finger separation in any area, then this may be considered diastasis recti

 
Note: This article and all included information is not intended as medical advice and does not treat or diagnose. Please consult your doctor for any health-related questions or concerns.
 

My Abs Are Separated, So Now What?

If you find that you have any degree of abdominal separation, don’t freak out. Your life is not ruined and neither is your core. Some research says diastasis recti can only be healed by surgery, but that is false. Surgery is not the only answer to help your body heal.
 

There are steps we can take toward improving our abdominal separation without surgery – we just need to make some changes in the way we work our core.

 
With a new baby in your life, change is all around you. So changing how you work your core is really no big deal in the grand scheme of things. Plus, you get to say “peace out” to crunches . . . which I think is something we can all fully support.
 
The first step toward helping your body heal is knowing what movements will continue to cause damage and then avoiding those movements. Again, your abdominals are no longer like they were before baby, so continuing your pre-pregnancy workout may do more harm than good to your ab separation.
 

What to Avoid If You Have Diastasis Recti

1. Increased Abdominal Pressure

  • Deep or intense forward folds
  • Boat Pose
  • Plank Pose (until you begin to strengthen the separation)
  • Low Plank (until you begin to strengthen the separation)
  • Spinal Balance (core work in Table Top Pose)

 

2. Lengthening the Abdomen

  • Wheel Pose
  • Camel Pose
  • Upward Facing Dog
  • Intense twists

 
Changing your mentality and approach to working your core may be difficult for many moms who are super active, enjoy intense strength training, and/or practice power vinyasa yoga. Practicing self-love and patience is extremely important to avoid causing more damage to your diastasis recti and to help heal your body.
 

So What Can I Do To Help My Diastasis Recti?

Once you make the changes and modifications in your yoga practice and fitness routine to halt any further damage with your diastasis recti, it is time to turn to the offensive and help your body recover. Stay tuned for an upcoming article featuring a few simple, yet effective exercises you can do to help regain the strength in your ab separation.
 
 
Remember, your core work has now changed and may be much less intense than your pre-pregnancy core work. You are now slowly and safely strengthening your core – no matter the intensity. So take the time to get to know your new body just as you are taking the time to know your new baby.
 
The more you are aware of and connected to your new body, the more you can treat it with the love and patience it needs.
 

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Michelle Stanger

Michelle is a mama to fur and non-fur babies, a yoga and Buti Yoga instructor and Partnerships Manager here at YogiApproved.com. She is forever grateful for her yoga practice and is honored to be able to share the practice with others. You can usually catch her seeking sunshine, chocolate, and a good laugh-session with her OMies.

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