We’ve all heard of diastasis recti (DR) or more commonly known as an abdominal separation that can happen during pregnancy. What’s actually separating is the linea alba, the connective tissue right in the middle of our abdomen. This can be due to too much pressure inside the abdominal and pelvic cavity pushing out towards the front of your abdomen, down towards the pelvic floor or up towards the diaphragm. It’s kind of like anything that’s under pressure something’s going to expand and give somewhere. In this situation, it’s our linea alba and it can separate anywhere along the midline. That’s why we check above, at and below the belly button for severity of DR.
If you’re wondering if you have a DR or how to check severity you can watch this video here. If you notice a mound on your belly when getting up from bed or doing a sit up position, you probably have one. Just watch our video to see the severity of it. It’s important to know because having DR can cause a weak core, weak pelvic muscles which can lead to incontinence and even low back/hip pain. The earlier we know, the better we can do things to prevent it from getting worse.
Now what to do? Unfortunately, in pregnancy we have relaxin hormone working against us. Relaxin is needed to help our body expand to make room for baby and to give birth. But definitely not helpful when we have a weak core and pelvic muscles, and we’re trying to contract. There’s not much we can do to fix DR or weak pelvic muscles during pregnancy, but we can definitely help it from getting worse. The best thing to do is proper breathing, belly bracing, exercise and avoiding positions that will make DR worse. We’ll worry about repairing DR and weak pelvic floor 6-8 weeks postpartum or whenever you’re cleared for exercise.
To properly brace the belly and work on our pelvic floor, we must first learn how to breath correctly. When you take an inhale breath you want to relax the belly at the same time. Most of us are probably breathing incorrectly because we’re always sucking in and contracting our bellies. Contracting our core and pelvic muscles for a prolonged period of time can have the opposite effect and weaken them as well. So reverse that thought and relax the belly on an inhale breath. Then on an exhale breath pull the belly button into the spine. Now obviously we’re not sucking in at full capacity here cause we’re pregnant. Only think about pulling in a ¼ of the way. So inhale, belly relaxes, exhale, belly button to the spine. This is how we want to be breathing regardless of being pregnant.
When working on the core muscles you have to think about the pelvic floor muscles too. They go hand in hand. This is where the infamous kegel exercise comes in. If you’re not sure how to do a kegel you can read our previous blog on it here. Now we’re going to combine the breathing with a kegel. So you’re going to inhale, relax the belly, exhale, belly button to the spine and kegel. When you do you’re kegel, I want you to think of a straight line going from your pelvic floor all the way to the top of your head. So always thinking of lifting up! You can do this exercise for 5 breaths in different positions like standing, lying on your side, on your back with knees bent or on all fours. This can be done daily or a few times a week to help with your core and pelvic muscles. There are supplemental exercises you can do to strengthen your core and pelvic floor as well which can be found here along with our how to on kegels.
Things you want to avoid with DR:
Lifting anything over 20-25 pounds in general or overhead.
When lifting your baby or toddler be sure to brace your core. So no hip hiking and be sure to breath properly (inhale relax the belly, exhale belly button to the spine).
No twisting movements of any kind.
No sitting straight up from bed or a lying down position. Be sure to turn to your side first, then sit up.
No planks or abdominal crunches. This actually makes DR worse.
Check out our Facebook video here for a quick How To on the belly bracing and breathing. As always, we hope this was helpful and please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below with any questions!