Diastasis Recti: How To Check for Diastasis Recti At Home

What is Diastasis Recti (DR)? How do I know if I have Diastasis Recti? These are two very common questions asked by pregnant and postnatal women everywhere. We interviewed a pelvic floor physical therapist to answer these questions, and show you how to check for Diastasis Recti at home.

Jump to What is Diastasis Recti (DR)

Jump to How to Check for Diastasis Recti

Jump to Diastasis Recti Exercise to Avoid

Jump to Diastasis Recti Corrective Exercise

Video created in partnership with Dr. Jennifer Joslyn PT, DPT, SFMA of Motion (currently accepting new patients for virtual visits). 

*If you’re having trouble seeing this video, try turning off or pausing your ad-blocker. If you prefer, you can also view this video on how to check for diastasis recti (DR) at home on YouTube here. While you’re there, SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel to get all the newest workouts!

Ladies, let’s talk about Diastasis Recti, also known as DR. Or in more fancy terms Diastasis Rectus Abdominis (DRA).

What is Diastasis Recti (DR)?

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.

Diastasis Recti and pregnancy

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.

How To Check for Diastasis Recti At Home

I enlisted the help of my pelvic floor physical therapist, Dr. Jennifer Joslyn PT, DPT, SFMA who practices at Motion, to show you how to check for DR at home.

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.

These are the seven steps for how to check for DR at home:

  1. Start lying on your back with legs bent at 90 degrees and feet flat on the ground.
  2. Find your belly button.
  3. Take fingers 2 inches above your belly button and lift your neck and shoulders off the ground.
  4. Find the 2 walls of the abdomen with your fingers.
  5. Determine if there’s a gap between the abdominal walls, and also asses the tension generated across the linea alba (or depth you’re allowed to insert your fingers into the gap).
  6. Repeat steps 2-5 at the belly button. Typically where the largest DR separation occurs.
  7. Repeat steps 2-5 at 2 inches below the belly button.

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).

How To Check for Diastasis Recti At Home

Diastasis Recti Exercises to Avoid

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.

Common Exercises to Avoid If You Have Diastasis Recti:

  1. Planks
  2. Crunches
  3. Any movement that causes a visible coning, or doming

I go into greater detail on 5 exercises to avoid if you have DR here.

how to modify planks

Additionally, I have a post on how to modify ab exercise for DR, including:

    1. How to modify planks for DR (see image above)
    2. How to modify crunches for DR

Diastasis Recti Corrective Exercise

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.

How To Activate Your Transverse Abdominis (TA Muscles)

  1. Lay on your back with your knees bent at 90 degrees and feet flat on the ground. 
  2. Find your hip bones and move your fingers one inch inwards.
  3. Do a little fake cough. The muscles you feel ‘pop’ when you cough, those are your transverse abdominis muscles.
  4. To engage them, inhale and allow your core and pelvic floor to relax.
  5. Imagine there is a string between your hip bones and as you exhale that string (or your TA muscles) are pulling your hip bones together. 

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.

Once you’ve master TA activation you can progress your DR corrective exercises by:

  1. Slowly adding movement with your arms or legs. See this post on 7 Exercises for Diastasis Recti and this post on 7 Exercises that are Safe for Diastasis Recti. 
  2. Changing positions (sitting up, standing).
  3. Adding dynamic exercises like jumping or running.

Deadbug ab exercise

After we filmed this Instagram live video on how to check for DR at home we received these follow up questions.

When Should You Check for Diastasis Recti?

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 Should You Start Corrective Exercises for Diastasis Recti?

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).

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Diastasis Recti | How to test for diastasis recti at home

 

2 comments
  1. Hi Lindsey! I just want to say thank you for such an informative post and also content that is super relevant to me. I watched your video and I wanted to clarify if we are supposed to breathe out and push the bottom of our back on to the mat when we lift our head to check for DR? I watch quite a number of how to check for DR videos but am never quite sure how we are supposed to breathe when we do that move. It gives me different finger gap results.

    • Hi Yas! Thanks for reading this post and I’m so glad you find this content valuable! to clarify, exhale and pull your hip bones together and then lift your neck and shoulders off the mat to check for DR. I hope that helps! -Lindsey