All the bliss and the beauty of motherhood is well worth it!! But there are quite a few things that stay in the shadows…The body takes a LOT on this journey of growing a small human. Sometimes we are expected to snap back like nothing every happened. That’s crazy!!!!! So what IS diastasis recti??!
Diastasis recti is also known as abdominal separation. DR is commonly defined as a gap of about 2.7 cm or more and can be found in the middle of the two sides of the abdominal wall, or rectus abdominis. In this post, I’ll be addressing DR that is specifically related to the postpartum women and moms in general. Many moms aren’t even sure if they have this or are NEVER checked in their post delivery check ups. This makes me crazy!!!!! How can we functionally move through life without compromise in the pelvic floor when we aren’t equipped to do what we can to properly recover??!
As a mother who experienced significant pelvic floor trauma from a very unique labor and delivery, I was never checked for much of anything much less DR. Even at 12 months postpartum I was still in excruciating pain, and, until I “yelled” (figuratively) loud enough, no one really seemed to care. It was not until I, finally, was provided a referral by my midwives to a pelvic floor PT that I experienced recovery and relief from all of the issues. At the end of the day, we truly are our own best advocates. Listen to your body and when you know something is not right do not give up.
Now, I understand my situation was quite unique. However, many friends and clients that I encounter in fitness aren’t aware of the potential issues associated with improper care of the pelvic floor and abdominal wall in the postpartum phase of life. This also goes for those who have had a smooth labor and delivery. Even when we come back to a state of “normalcy” on the scale, people close to us may be asking, “when’s the next one due?” [insert eye roll emoji] This can be thanks to abdominal separation (DR). Not to mention, the associated pee-when-you-do-jumping-jacks issue that is a commonplace issue for many postpartum and beyond women, as well.
I want this, for everyone mom out there, to be something that we are hearing on the front end of the journey and not something with which they are blindsided. I want us to be empowered by information that can help us navigate situations as opposed to being victims to circumstances. The pelvic floor is so so important for your fitness, your comfort, your organ function and more!
Ok, so how can you check? Have you heard of the finger check? While this is still a check performed at home, it’s a good baseline to determine whether or not further investigation might be necessary. If you have a gap of 2-3 fingers wide in between your abdominal wall (you’ll feel the space as you contract your abdomen while laying flat by lifting into a crunch), then it’s a decent indication there’s potentially separation that is more than ideal. I really love this FIT4MOM article on how to check for diastasis recti.
And, now what to do if you have it?? Thankfully, if your separation isn’t severe, you can do a lot of in-home exercises to help rehab the abdominal wall. If you have a severe case, you may (like me) need the help of a PT. As always, it’s a good idea to be seen if you suspect you are experiencing DR.
My main advice would be to engage in exercises that avoid the standard crunch. Also, until you are healed, do not engage in abdominal exercises that involve lifting both legs at the same time. If you have DR, chances are you are not going to be able to engage the core to maintain a flat back to the floor or your mat, which can further damage the status of DR. I always recommend when working the core via the lower body, to engage the abdominal wall (when cleared) by using one leg at a time. Also, before engaging in any exercise think about it this way…the core is crucial to the strength of the whole body. The pelvic floor is the a good gauge of the health of the core. When you are going to move your body in any fitness outlet, lift up from the base of the pelvic floor (where you control your pee…) and then draw the belly button to spine. This encourages a safer posture for core work.
If you have questions or would like to speak with me directly, please reach out!! I’m always here to help. And am thankful to have the opportunity to serve others.