The Great Divide: Diastasis Recti

The mommy pooch, mummy tummy, or muffin top, why does this happen?

You are eating right, you are doing crunches like they are going out of style, you feel stronger but that dreaded pooch your sweet angel baby gave your remains and they are way beyond diapers.

So, why does this happen?

There are several reasons for this. One of the primary cause is Diastasis Recti. What is diastasis recti? It is the separation in the rectus abdominal (six pack abs) which is caused later in pregnancy about 2 in 3 women will experience this. Because there is a gap between the muscles your belly will push through the space where the muscles have split.

What causes this?

-Pregnancy

-Hormonal Changes

-Weight Gain

-Abdominal Weakness

-Poor Posture

Several factors can increase the likelihood of diastasis recti:

-C-Sections

-Having multiples

-Multiple pregnancies

-Lack of proper training

Other facts: 

-Diastasis recti can affect men and women who have struggled with yo-yo dieting, quick weight gain, improper lifting or a fitness routine heavy in sit-ups.  

-100% of women may have some level of diastasis of the rectus abdominis in the third trimester. (Gilliard and Brown 1996, Diane Lee 2013)

-For many women the gap remains widened at 8 weeks postpartum, and left untreated, the gap at 8 weeks remains unchanged at 1 year postpartum. (Coldron et al 2008, Liaw et al 2011)

-66% of women with diastasis recti have some level of pelvic floor dysfunction (Spitznagle et al 2007).

How can you tell if you have diastasis recti?

It is simple:


-Lie down on your back with both knees bent
-Place your index and third fingers directly above your navel (belly button). Your fingers should be aligned side by side and pointing in the direction of your feet.
-Raise your head and shoulders off the supporting surface and feel for any gap or dip under your fingers.

-Lower your upper body back to starting position.

The diastatasis or split is measured by the number of finger spaces that fit in between the two rectus abdominis muscle bellies.
Normal = 1 finger space separation or less
Diastasis recti = a separation or gap between the rectus abdominis muscles of 2 or more finger spaces or a distance of 25 mm (just less than 1 inch).
This means the tissues joining the rectus abdominis muscles have either stretched or split apart. Obviously the wider the gap, the larger the separation of these two muscles – some women can very large separations of greater than 4 finger spaces.

So, what do you do about it?

You have been planking, crunching and pounding the pavement but NOTHING. There is still hope. You need to learn how to activate your core muscles properly to begin flattening out your core muscles.

And if you have diastasis recti you need to avoid the following:

-Planks

-Sit-ups

-Crunches

What do you need to avoid these movements? The rectus abdominis roll is the “six-pack” muscle. It is not the muscle responsible for getting the flat tummy you are dreaming of. Hence, all the crunches are not making progress on decreasing your “pooch”.

Okay, so your youngest is 10+, you can still heal diastasis recti. It is about retraining and activating your core, having proper postural alignment and breathing right.

So, how do you do this?

First you need to rediscover your core and pelvic floor. Once you have found them begin to engage the muscle in gentle core exercises and stretches. Second, become mindful of your posture! Do not tuck you bum under you. Ditch the heels! Heels throw off your posture. Finally, breathe from your diaphragm not your belly or shoulders. Be sure you feel your rib cage expand both front and back.

 Here are a few exercises to get your started. If you have any questions, email me at kat@kat.fit.

Interested in learning more about this topic and others surrounding motherhood, fitness and nutrition? Or, just looking for a team of mother looking to support and motivate one another in their fitness journey? Join Team KatFit: Stretch Marks, Messy Buns & Yoga Pants.