What is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis Recti Abdomins (DRA) is a condition characterized by a protruding midline due to increased intra-abdominal pressure (1). It occurs commonly in pregnant and postpartum women where the rectus abdominis separates along the midline and stretches during pregnancy to accommodate the growing baby. Though common in pregnant women, diastasis recti can occur in obese patients and those who have suffered abdominal injuries (2).
How to identify diastasis recti and what to do
Diastasis Recti Abdominis can be identified by a separation above the umbilicus that is upward of 2.2cm (3). It can often look like a bulge around the belly button area or coning when the abdominal muscles contract. If diastasis recti is suspected, please visit your healthcare provider and take the necessary steps to rectify the problem. After diagnosis, pelvic floor therapists, practitioners specialized in postpartum care, or personal trainers specialized in pelvic floor rehabilitation, postpartum care, and women's health can usually give treatment plans. Typical treatment plans for diastasis recti include strengthening exercises for the deep core and pelvic floor.
Will diastasis recti go away after pregnancy?
During pregnancy, the body naturally stretches to accommodate the growth of the body. It is important to note that some separation along the linea alba is normal and can heal in postpartum months if managed with the right treatment plan and care.
What exercises should you avoid if you have diastasis recti?
Pregnant women should generally avoid traditional core work as it increases intra-abdominal pressure. The same applies to individuals with diastasis recti, as it can exacerbate the problem. Instead, the individual should focus on bracing and engaging the abdominal muscles through all exercises. Engaging the core during all exercise movements helps work the core muscles even when not directly targeted through exercises like sit-ups, planks, and crunches.
Is there a way to prevent diastasis recti?
To prevent diastasis recti, a consistent training regimen with core strengthening exercises and weight management is essential throughout pregnancy and postpartum. Strengthening the core and learning how to engage the deep core muscles through diaphragmatic breathing can help manage intra-abdominal pressure and reduce the pressure placed on the linea alba throughout pregnancy. It is also important to minimize excess abdominal pressure. Breathing properly through exertion can help reduce excess abdominal pressure from lifting weights, picking up a laundry basket, etc. Coordinating your breath with movement is an easy way to reduce excess abdominal pressure. In the case of an exercise like a squat, you would inhale while you drop into the squat and exhale when you lift out of the squat.
Diastasis Recti, though common in women, is treatable. If left untreated, Diastasis Recti can lead to weakness in the core, which can lead to back pain, pelvic dysfunction, and trunk instability. Whether you're a new Mom, a personal trainer, an athlete, or someone who cares about your body, learning what diastasis recti is and how to prevent it is crucial. If you suspect it, your first step is to seek the assistance of a healthcare provider for the next steps.
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