6 Diastasis recti (abdominal separation) myths busted
Updated: Feb 5
Diastasis recti - or DR for short as it reads in this article.
It literally means the distance between the recti muscles.
Rectus abdominal muscles sit on the front of your core and are known as the 6 pack muscles. They are the obvious ones that people work hard to define yet their role in a functional core is less known than its known buddy, the transverse abdominals (TVA).
This article will bust some myths and take away the fear that can often surround DR.
You can prevent DR in pregnancy
You can't. You can minimize potential effects post baby by adjusting our exercise in pregnancy. But we cannot prevent it - it is a natural phenomena in pregnancy to allow a baby to grow.
Fearing this idea of developing DR in pregnancy is more harmful than good.
Only pregnant women have DR
EVERYBODY has diastasis recti. Each person has it to variable degrees. To what degree depends on genetics, core tightness, age, activity levels. Did you know that babies are born with significant DR? At about age 5 the connective tissue is strengthened and decreases in the DR distance. Men, women, children, babies. We all have it!
It's all about the width of the gap
Width is part of the picture but not the only thing to go by! So often we hear women saying that they have a 4cm gap...and leave it at that.
When considering DR, we want to approach it on ALL levels. And this is what a good coach will do - ask, feel and watch for:
Tensile strength of the linea alba (connective tissue line down the middle)
Width at various points along the DR
Depth at various points along the DR
Length along DR
Movement patterns - on back, seated, on 4’s, seated, walking
Connection with other parts of body eg: breathing, ribs, pelvic floor, other core muscles, glutes
Management of pressure system
Diastasis recti is responsible for my mom pooch *shudder*
I’m not shuddering that we have a tummy, I'm shuddering at the common use of those words to sell weight loss or diastasis recti ‘lose the pooch’ products. As if you are broken. As if this is a flaw. An imperfection we must rid of all evidence we carried a fucking human. Sigh.
Diastasis recti can be part of having a sticky out belly post baby. Diastasis recti can also be attached to issues such as incontinence, prolapse, sore back, anxiety, depression. In my humble and expert opinion, those mentioned are potentially more influential and important on a mothers wellbeing, than the appearance of her tummy. (Your feelings on your aesthetics post baby are 100% valid and worthy. For support on this, here is a beautiful article on post baby body from GGS to empower you, you strong woman).
Doing all the situps and planks alone will heal my DR
No. Just no. Firstly, what is a healed DR? Medically, they call it 2cm or less gap but there is no mention of indications in myth 3.
Re-connecting to your core post baby with suitable exercises, breathing, timing, alignment, load, intensity will support a functionally strong core or “heal” it.
Depending on all that was just mentioned, there maybe situps. There maybe planks. With guidance from experienced coach programming in there. I am not advising you to bust out a hard core core workout day 1 of giving birth or even day 17497674. But I also don’t want to disempower you by saying they are totally off the table - if they are what you want to do for whatever reason, then lets see all of the above factors and go from there.
Doing all the situps and planks alone have CAUSED my DR
No. The move itself may not have caused DR to happen. Exercises, like situps may exacerbate an already existing DR. Or it might be that we don't know how to manage the core pressure system. Often, it is not the exercise itself, but how we do it.
If you are wanting support with connecting to your core and learning how to target and engage it, check out the Re.connect core restore programme here.
Of course, if you are concerned about your diastasis recti, or notice/feel any hard protrusions (hernias) along the midline, please see your care provider. I always recommend seeing a pelvic health physio regardless of a hernia, for a view of the whole core picture.
You can do exercises you would like to be doing, in time, with the right tools and support.
Remember: you are in control here. Diastasis recti itself is not a venereal disease. You won’t die. You are a strong, clever human. Don't let the fear of core exercise stop you from thriving.