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What Is Diastasis Recti?

Friday, 29 March 2019  |  Paul

There are certain topics new mums are hesitant to talk about, and diastasis recti seems to be one of them, even though up to 60% of women suffer from this condition post-delivery. As it is with most taboos, there are many misconceptions and false claims going around about diastasis recti. We're here to answer any questions you may have, and help you once and for all determine whether you have diastasis recti, and what you can do about it if you do have it.

What Is Diastasis Recti?

Firstly, we need to establish what diastasis recti even is. The complicated-sounding medical term (pronounced dahy-as-tuh-sis rek-tahy) describes that frustrating post-baby pooch that doesn't go away even when the baby weight does. This is caused by your left and right abdominal muscles separating down the middle, exposing your internal organs.

How to Check Diastasis Recti?

Unfortunately, the condition often goes undiagnosed simply because medical professionals will not look for it unless you specifically point it out, and women are frequently not even aware of its existence. The best way to tell if you have diastasis recti is to perform a simple self-check, and them let your doctor know about your suspicion.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor (like before a sit-up). Place your palm down over your belly, with your fingers pointing towards downwards.
  2. Press your fingers gently into your navel area then slowly lift your head, drawing your chin to your check (just like when you do crunches). This causes your rectus abdominis (abs) to contract.
  3. Repeat this below and above your belly button because the separation may be wider in different places. If you feel a gap between your abs, you most likely have diastasis recti.

Diastasis Recti

There are different stages of diastasis recti, and the course of treatment depends on how severe your condition is:

  • Minor diastasis recti (5cm in length, 1cm in width) will generally repair itself naturally once you start gradually stimulating your abdominal muscles.
  • Mild diastasis recti (up to 10cm in length, 2cm in width) will not fully correct itself, and requires additional measures to be taken.
  • Severe diastasis recti (longer than 10cm, wider than 2cm) will not correct itself and must be treated surgically.

As with any other condition, regular self-checks should be an important part of your daily routine, especially when recovering after post-delivery. If something doesn't feel right, always consult your doctor or other medical professional.

Severe Diastasis Recti
Severe diastasis recti will require surgery

What Are the Symptoms of Abdominal Separation?

Abdominal separation is often accompanied with other symptoms as well. These include:

  • Lower back, hip or pelvic pain
  • Digestive issues, such as constipation and bloating
  • Bulging belly
  • Urine leaks
  • Weakened pelvic alignment
  • Poor posture
  • Trouble breathing
  • Pain during sex
  • Difficult vaginal deliver

How Common Is Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis recti is very common during and following pregnancy. One study found that up to 60% of women may experience some form of diastasis recti during or after pregnancy. This, however, includes minor cases of the condition as well, and these usually go away on their own in six weeks to three months postpartum.

What Increases My Risk of Getting Diastasis Recti?

Although it's not limited to pregnancy, diastasis recti does most often occur during pregnancy. The following factors may increase your risk of ab separation during or after pregnancy:

  • Having more than one child, especially if they're close in age
  • Being over the age of 35
  • Having heavy babies or multiples
  • Doing excessive abdominal exercises after the first trimester
  • Being petite
  • Having poor abdominal muscle tone preceding pregnancy
  • Having a pronounced swayback
  • A family history of diastasis recti

Is Diastasis Recti Painful?

The separation of muscles itself is not painful, but can, in some cases, lead to the following complications:

  • Jeopardised trunk stability and mobility
  • Back pain
  • Pelvic pain
  • Damage to your posture
  • Pelvic floor dysfunction
  • Hernia (in very extreme cases)

Can Diastasis Recti Cause Hernia?

Diastasis recti is frequently confused with hernia. The two are actually distinctly different conditions and require different treatments. Diastasis means a separation of two parts, and even though in some cases a bulge may become noticeable in the mid-line of the abdomen, where your six-pack abs come together, this is not a form of hernia.

In very rare cases the separation can be so bad that it causes a painful hernia, which occurs when organs poke through the opening and push against the skin. To prevent this from happening, it's important to recognise your condition as soon as possible, and start working on closing the gap right away.

How to Prevent Diastasis Recti

There are certain things you can't change, such as your genetic predisposition or being pregnant with multiple babies. But there is still plenty you can do before and during pregnancy to stop Diastasis Recti from occurring:

  • Strengthen your core before you become pregnancy, and, to a certain degree, during your first trimester
  • Avoid moves that isolate your abdominal muscle or involve thrusting of your ribs (sit-ups, push-ups, crunches) after your first trimester
  • Stay active during pregnancy, but focus on more comprehensive exercises, such as squats, that strengthen your whole body
  • Maintain a healthy weight

Healthy Pregnant Woman Doing Yoga
Stay active during pregnancy, but don't overwork your abs

How to Fix Diastasis Recti

The different stages of diastasis recti require different treatment; while minor diastasis should go away on its own, severe forms of the condition most often require surgical treatment. The good news is that the majority of patients have either a minor or a mild form of diastasis recti, which can easily be fixed without surgery.

Can Diastasis Recti Be Fixed Without Surgery?

In most cases, yes. If you're suffering from minor to mild diastasis recti (up to 10cm in length and up to 2cm in width), the following four steps can help you close the abdominal gap without surgery:

1. Use good posture. Focus on lengthening through the top of the head, engaging the core and maintaining a neutral pelvic position. You should also make am effort to breathe deeply into the sides and back of your rib cage, drawing the belly button in gently toward the spine as you exhale.

2. Do core exercises that focus on engaging and working the whole core. Some of the most recommended exercises for diastasis recti are vacuum crunches, squats, pelvic tilts, glute bridge, heel slides, cat cows, bird dog, single-leg kickbacks, upright push-ups and head lifts.

3. Wear an abdominal binder. Abdominal binders or support belts support and compress your lower back and abdomen, helping to reduce swelling and support your weak muscles. They's also great for symptoms related to diastasis recti, such as lower back pain. Here are our top three suggestions:


Belly Bandit Bamboo Post-Pregnancy Belly BeltThe Belly Bandit Bamboo Post-Pregnancy Belly Belt is made from natural bamboo viscose, with firmness and strength you need to gently reshape your belly, waist and hips. It offers comfort and support after vaginal delivery or C-section, helps to minimise stretch marks, and provides additional support while breastfeeding.

Made from natural viscose, this wrap is gentle to the skin and suitable to use by most women. To achieve optimal results, you should wear it for at least the first six to ten weeks after delivery.


Oppo Post-Op Abdominal Binder SupportThe Oppo Post-Op Abdominal Binder Support is a versatile support, offering even and adjustable support to the abdomen. It works by providing contoured adjustable support between the waist and hips, which relieves strain on the muscles, ligaments and joints, allowing you to focus on your day.

The binder features an elastic panel construction that offers even support and prevents rollover. With hook-and-loop closures for easy application, this support can be applied with ease and worn as and when required.


Deep Abdominal BinderThe Deep Abdominal Binder offers outstanding support for your lower back, middle back and abdomen. It features a wraparound design with simple anterior touch-and-close fastening, fully bound edges and soft padded front panel.

The binder is made of high-quality, ventilated elastic that ensures excellent breathability and comfort even when you wear it for longer periods of time. It provides light compression that increases circulation and promotes healing.


4. Consider physical therapy. If you're suffering from a more serious form of abdominal separation, you might need to find the help of a physical therapist.

How to Live with Diastasis Recti Without Making Things Worse

Once you're certain that your condition in fact is diastasis recti, you need to focus on getting better. But even when you're doing everything in your power to fix your abs, the process will take a while. So here are our top tips for what activities to avoid to prevent things from getting worse:

  • Don't strain yourself such as by lifting heavy objects
  • Don't lean forward when pushing a pram
  • Avoid front-loading baby carriers
  • Avoid certain exercises and sports: crunches, bicycle crunches, sit-ups, double leg raises, push-ups, press-ups, front planks, swimming gold, tennis and softball

What is your experience with diastasis recti? Let us know in the comments below, or find us on Facebook and Twitter.

Tags: Learn About Conditions, Maternity


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