During pregnancy, the abdominal muscles stretch as the baby grows. This can sometimes lead to a condition known as diastasis recti. Diastatis recti tends to occur in the second or third trimester of pregnancy. The separation tends to lessen after childbirth however it may also persist postnatally. The stretched and separated muscles in the postnatal phase do not provide full support for the back and may increase the chances of a new mother suffering from back pain.
Certain vigorous abdominal exercise during pregnancy can lead to diastasis recti and it is therefore very important to always seek professional advice before starting an exercise programme during pregnancy.
Women who have multiple pregnancies, deliver babies of high birth weight, have repeated pregnancies and are older than 35 years are more likely to develop diastasis recti.
How can you tell if you have diastasis recti?
To get to know if you have abdominal muscle separation, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Place your fingers over the belly button with your fingers pointing towards your toes. Now relax your abdominal muscles and lift your head, neck and shoulders gently off the ground. Gently press and move your fingers side to side to feel the right and left edges of your muscle. If the gap between the muscles is 2 fingers wide or more than you have diastasis recti. You may also have a protruding bugle. Move your fingers above and below the belly button to check the length of the separation.
Can you avoid or reduce the separation?
The separation can be minimized by using some precautions:
- In order to sit up from lying, roll on your side and push on your hands rather than sitting straight up
- Avoid strenuous abdominal work such as sit-ups, crunches and abdominal crossovers
- Avoid lifting or carrying heavy objects
- Wear abdominal support belt or firm compressive underwear
How can the separation be corrected?
- Seek professional advice to start a core stability programme. A core stability programme aims to activate and engage the deep abdominal muscles in order to re-align and strengthen the core and pelvis and reduce the gap.
- An abdominal binder can be used to get the ends of the muscle closer together to help healing, however this should only be used in conjunction with a proper exercise programme.
- Engaging of the core muscles during daily activities such as stair climbing, lifting and changing your baby