Diastasis Recti (aka separated tummy muscles)
During your pregnancy, generally around about 20 weeks or can be later, the 2 muscles (six-pack muscles or rectus abdominis) that run down the middle of your stomach to separate during pregnancy. This is called diastasis recti. I had a 3 finger gap with my first child but the degree of separation can vary from 1 – 4-5 or even more sometimes. The reason it happens is that the linea alba, or connective tissue gets weak and the muscles either side of this separate to accommodate the growing tummy. Separation can go back without any assistance by 6-8 weeks. However, sometimes it takes longer or you will need to do some exercises to assist with this.
There is a way you can check to see if you have a diastasis and how far apart your muscles are.
You can do this check:
- Lie on your back with your legs bent and your feet flat on the floor
- Raise your shoulders off the floor slightly and look down at your tummy
- Using the tips of your fingers, feel between the edges of the muscles, above and below your belly button. See how many fingers you can fit into the gap between your muscles
- Do this regularly to check that the gap is gradually getting smaller
If the gap is still obvious 8 weeks after the birth, contact the GP or who may refer you on to a Women’s Health Physio or Pre Post Natal Coach who will give you some specific exercises to do.
Pelvic floor and deep stomach muscle exercises working the transverse abdominis can help to reduce the size of the separation between your stomach muscles.
Diaphragm Breathing exercises will also help to resolve this as we need to control the pressure within our abdomen. Be aware of your posture after having a baby will also help, standing up straight, shoulders back, neutral spine. Lifting heavy items for the first few weeks, straining and when you get out of bed, roll onto your side and push yourself up using your arm, to prevent further straining or doming of the abdomen. Refrain from doing anything high impact or anything to create intra-abdominal pressure (i.e. heavy lifting, sit-up’s) that could cause further separation.