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What is Diastasis Recti? How does it affect the body and how it can develop?

Diastasis happens most of the time during pregnancy and I see it quite often with my postpartum moms. The abdominal muscles start to separate the linea alba – the soft connective tissue that holds the abdominals together. Imagine the rectus abdominis running along the front of your abdomen.


What happens is, as the baby grows those muscles can start to get overstretched and they pull on where they are connected in the front. Sometimes moms start to notice it even during pregnancy when they’re getting up out of bed or they’re moving around, when they raise their head up. They see doming or coning of their abdomen.

What else can contribute to Diastasis Recti?

It develops not only from the baby getting bigger. When the baby is growing mom’s ribs start to open up to allow the baby a little bit more room and her back starts to arch. This happens long enough where the back starts to get tight. At the same time the obliques get also tight. You can imagine it like if you had a zipper jacket and somebody was pulling it from the back side. These abdominals during pregnancy are trying to stay together but they can’t due to the pressure of the growing baby.

Mom’s over-active oblique muscles can also contribute to this. Even after pregnancy, when the baby is no longer there, mom’s still stuck in this position and the oblique muscles are actually overactive or working stronger trying to support the body. Because they are more of the mover muscles they do a lousy job of trying to support. But as they stay tight and overactive in relation to the lower abdominals that they support they actually take over from those stabilizing muscles.

A quick weight gain can also contribute to the abdominal muscles separating. This is clearly attributed to pregnancy but it can happen outside of pregnancy as well.

Another thing is poor pressure management of the lower abdominals. So this is why this could happen when weight lifting. Instead of engaging the pelvic floor muscles and the transverse abdominal muscles to support the back in the pelvis, what can happen is that people are relying more on the mover muscles like the rectus abdominis and the obliques. And those core muscles that should be engaging kind of fail so there is an increased pressure downward and outward which puts stress on all those muscles from the front.

When you exercise, you might notice doming or coning if you go to get up or maybe you’re doing sit-ups or  plank positions. You glance down in a plank and notice that your belly is coning. I’ve had women mentioned that sometimes they noticed this during sex with certain positions as well.

To sum up, does it mean you can’t get Diastasis if you’ve never been pregnant?

No. Diastasis Recti can also happen when weight lifting as I mentioned earlier, if the Inner Core muscles are not being activated. But I see it personally in my practice most often in patients after they had a baby.

What are some other signs you could have Diastasis?

You might notice that you have some incontinence, or leaking (accidental loss of urine or feces) due to that pressure management. It starts to put pressure down into the pelvic floor and if the pelvic floor is weak, you can experience some leaking. It’s an indirect thing.

You might also notice some pelvic pressure. I have moms that tell me, not only are they worried about their core but that they’re having some heaviness in the vaginal area or the pelvic area.

 You might notice an instability of your core. When I speak to moms they sometimes intuitively ‘feel’ their core is not strong like it needs to be. It’s not the same as it was before their pregnancy. They can’t run, they can’t do what they previously could. They can’t bike, but they can’t lift weights, they’re afraid to go back to exercising. Intuitively they just know that something is different and they want to get this checked out.

Another sign is pelvic pain. This is again an indirect thing. Some moms come to see me and mention they’re having pain in the pelvic area. Sometimes it’s pain with intercourse. They experience weakness, feeling like they can’t quite rely on their back and their core to keep the body stable, and to enjoy the workouts that they used to like.

Can you check for Diastasis?

Yes, you can do this quick check at home when laying down on your back face up. You need to check for several things:

  • approximation
  • length
  • depth
  • width

of the gap above your belly button. Watch my video for a short demonstration (from … onwards):

You can do this on yourself or have your partner do it for you. This is a really great quick check, that you can do, and if you are finding that you’re concerned about this, you should definitely reach out.

If you did the quick check Diastasis I showed you in my video and suspect that you have Diastasis what can you do about it straight away?

First of all, I highly encourage you to get this looked at by a professional (pelvic floor therapist) so that you can be guided through a customized treatment plan because this isn’t just about strengthening in the pelvic area. Very often we need to release the low back and the oblique muscles, so we can let those muscles approximate. There are releases that we can do to the abdomen, specifically the rectus but it is also important to learn how to manage pressure. And that’s something that often you need to work one-on-one with somebody.

Also, check out my video and my 3 Tips to Start Healing Diastasis Recti.

If you are truly looking for a solution to this and you want to get there as fast as possible, get find an experienced professional. You can reach out to me even if you’re not in the Woodland Park or Colorado Springs, Colorado, area. I’d be happy to connect you with somebody in your area through some directories that I’m part of.

If you have any questions, I’m a click away.  Also, remember to download my FREE Ultimate Postpartum Guide here. (https://healingspotpt.com/postpartum/ ) It dives in a little bit deeper with Diastasis and other common issues that I help moms with during the postpartum period.

There are online programs that walk moms through rehabilitation of Diastasis and some of them are really effective. But I still strongly recommend getting this looked at by a specialized PT and have a customized plan.

Justine Calderwood

The Healing Spot Physical Therapy

"We Help Individuals Overcome Pelvic Floor Issues, And Heal Bowel & Bladder Conditions So They Can Be Active and Pain Free Again, Regardless of How Long It's Been"