For most women, understanding what diatasis recti is and how it can affect you will never be an issue. However, for the 30% of women that will suffer from this condition, it is very important to have an appreciation of what is happening and how you can stop it from becoming a bigger issue.
Despite this being a common condition in pregnant and postpartum women, some people may suffer from it and never even know. There is a simple self-test that can help show you if the right and left halves of your rectus abdominis muscle have spread apart at the bodys midline fascia, the linea alba.
In layman’s terms, the line that splits your 6 pack is being pulled apart, and is no longer connected. This can occur as early as 16 weeks of pregnancy, and in some cases separations of over 4 fingers (6cm) in width can appear. This condition happens because of widening and thinning of the midline tissue in response to the force of the uterus pushing against the abdominal wall, in conjunction with pregnancy hormones that soften connective tissue.
A small widening of the midline happens in all pregnancies and is normal, although anything over 1 finger (1.5cm) needs to be addressed postpartum. If the connective tissue does not reconnect within a year of giving birth then it is unlikely to ever reform. This can result in back pain, herniation, and weak core muscles, with the only solution being surgery.
It is important that you test yourself during and after pregnancy, and if you detect that your abdominals are splitting, consult with your health practitioner and seek help from a pre/post pregnancy exercise professional. They can show you exercises that will help bring back the separation and strengthen your core muscles.
Below is an example of the self-test. Please give it a go, and good luck.
This simple self-test will help you determine if you have diastasis recti:
- Lie on your back with one knee bent, and your other leg straight out on the floor.
- Place one hand behind your head, and the other hand on your abdomen, with your fingertips across your midline-parallel with your waistline at the level of your belly button.
- With your abdominal wall relaxed, gently press your fingertips into your abdomen.
- Roll your upper body off the floor into a “crunch”, making sure that your ribcage moves closer to your pelvis.
- Move your fingertips back and forth across your midline, feeling for the right and left sides of your rectus abdominis muscle. Test for separation at, above, and below your belly button.