During pregnancy the abdominal muscles go through a massive amount of stretching. The two bands of recti muscles (stomach muscles), which were lying right next to each other, stretch away from the midline to make room for the growing baby. The belly button is the weakest area and tends to be the bigger amount of separation compared to where I test above and below the naval. The size of the separation can vary from a small gap measuring 2-3cm wide and 2-5 cm long to a larger gap of 12-20 cm wide. When I test for this I use my fingers to see how big the gap is and some of you will know I say ???its 2 fingers big??? meaning I can put two fingers between the two sides of the abdominals.
There are a number of factors that may put you at risk at getting Diastasis Recti but nothing is conclusive to pin point why it can happen. Here are a few reasons why:
- Lifting children ???increased strain on the weakened abdominal wall will cause the widening of the separation.
- greater weight gain
- having a stronger and tight abdominal muscles
- larger babies
- Having a baby at a later age
- having a higher pressure in the stomach muscles due to belly breathing
- multiple births
How long does recovery take?
By 8 weights most women will have recovered to about 2 fingers width which is a standard width and the doctor would class this is normal and nothing to worry about. Something it can take up to a 1year or even 2 to close back together especially when the woman isn???t made aware she has the separation or exercises were not performed the right way to help strengthen and pull back the stomach. But don???t worry, my post-natal classes are there for you to build back the strength and help you be aware of this and what you can do.
Exercise and lifestyle advice
Exercises to increase lumbopelvic stability (pelvic tilts) are vital and should not be missed because you find them boring or considered a waste of time. This exercise strengthens the stabilising muscles of the inner unit (core, pelvic floor) to work together as one.
Correct upright posture should be encouraged during everyday activities, as this will assist recruitment of the deep stabilising muscles. Being careful how you get up from a lying position, so roll onto one side before sitting up and reverse the process when lying down. Lifting toddlers and heavy shopping, moving furniture should be avoided till you feel strong enough to engage pelvic floor and brace the abs to keep the stomach and back safe and stop the widening of the stomach muscles when put under stress.
Sit ups should be avoided at all costs. Not only do they not work the stomach muscles which comes to shock from everyone who think doing sit ups will create the 6 pack look or flatten the stomach but they widen the separation even more when performed with Diastasis Recti. Being careful with exercises, as some may be suitable for others but not for you depending on the gap and previous experience of exercise before. Making sure the stomach isn???t doming will help you work out what exercises are best suited for you. Improvements may be slow but keep working at it and watching what you are doing and you will get results. Every mum I meet what their stomach flat and go back to the body they once had but your body has gone through so much change, if you are breast feeding your body is still going through changes due to the pregnancy hormonal releases that are still in your body. Diastasis Recti isn???t something to be scared off, you just need to be aware of what it is, what can be done to help it and what to not do. I am here to help you. I have trained to understand this and know what is needed. Post-natal Pilates is an excellent class to come to, to help you get back your strength, help reduce aches and pains and allow you that time to be made aware of what is going on in your body.
I hope this has helped, as I had a few new mums in class who had separation but had no idea what it was. I know it frustrates me that mid ways or doctors are not taught to tell you about this as it can account for back pain, difficulty getting strong with the stomach and problems lifting and moving around.