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Ladies, let’s talk about Diastasis Recti, also known as DR. Or in more fancy terms Diastasis Rectus Abdominis (DRA).
Diastasis Recti is the separation of the right and left abdominal muscles at the midline of the abdomen. If the separation of the abdominal muscle becomes greater than 2 cm, then you have DR.
DR is also commonly referred to as the ‘mom pooch’. Diastasis Recti weakens the connective tissue between the two halves of the rectus abdominis — AKA the more visible six-pack ab muscles.
We typically talk about the degree of separation in finger widths — for example, a 1-finger separation, or a 2-finger separation. Dr. Jen explains this further in the video, but the finger widths separation is only one way of measuring DR.
In my case, and in the case of most women who develop DR, this happens when the abdominal muscles separate during pregnancy. The growth of my belly stretched my linea alba (you can see what abdominal separation looks like after pregnancy in this diagram from Mayo Clinic).
According to this study on Diastasis Recti up to 66% of pregnant women will experience DR by their third trimester.
Note, DR can contribute to low back pain, urinary or bowel problems, poor posture and difficulty performing load transfer tasks necessary for bending, reaching, lifting, carrying, squatting, walking, and stair climbing – all the activities that new moms quickly become experts in.
I highly suggest watching the 5 minute video tutorial on how to check for DR at home above — specifically from 57 seconds to 2:08.
Note, diastasis recti is not ONLY about the abdominal separation, but also about the tension you can generate across your linea alba.
If you have questions or concerns about your bodies recovery postpartum physical therapy is a great option; specifically pelvic floor physical therapy. If you’re local to the Twin Cities area I highly suggest seeing Dr. Jennifer Joslyn PT, DPT, SFMA of Motion (she’s currently accepting new patients for virtual visits).
Again, I highly suggest watching the 5 minute video tutorial above — specifically from 2:52 to 3:16.
Most importantly, avoid all exercises that cause a visible coning, or doming, in your ab muscles (across the linea alba).
This might mean you need to better manage the “pressure system” created by your diaphragm, core, and pelvic floor muscles while performing the exercise — see below.
It could also mean that you do not quite yet have the strength for this particular exercise. However, this doesn’t mean you won’t ever be able to do that exercise, it just may mean you need to modify it for now.
One thing you can experiment with is managing your pressure system (exhaling during the hard part of the exercise) and properly engaging your transverse abdominis muscles (see DR corrective exercise below).
For a visual explanation of managing your pressure system, watch this video on the diaphragm and internal pressure system created by Julie Wiebe.
I go into greater detail on 5 exercises to avoid if you have DR here.
Again, I highly suggest watching the 5 minute video tutorial above — specifically from 3:26 to 4:30.
Learning how to properly engage your transverse abdominis is the best place to start with DR corrective exercise.
You can also watch this video on how to activate your transverse abdominis (TA muscle activation).
Activating your transverse adbominis through TA activation and TA breathing (diaphragmatic breathing) is the most foundational exercise to learn for DR recovery.
After we filmed this Instagram live video on how to check for DR at home we received these follow up questions.
Diastasis Recti is more prominent in the first couple of weeks postpartum or postnatal. DR tends to be most “healed” in 4-6 weeks.
With the above in mind, you can check for DR whenever, but it may be best to self-evaluate around 4-6 weeks postpartum.
When working to improve your DR keep in mind that it takes 6-8 weeks to start noticing and feeling strength gains.
You can also start this 30 Day Postpartum Workout Plan once you’ve been cleared for exercise by your physician or midwife.
A big thank you to Dr. Jennifer Joslyn PT, DPT, SFMA of Motion for sharing her knowledge and expertise with us on Diastasis Recti. If you’re local to the Twin Cities area I highly suggest seeing Dr. Jennifer Joslyn PT, DPT, SFMA of Motion (she’s currently accepting new patients for virtual visits).