Have you ever noticed a ridge or coning of your belly when you sit up? Lost all the “baby weight” but still feel like you have a pooch? Does your core just not feel strong and stable? It could be diastasis recti–a very prevalent condition that many women experience postpartum.
Let’s talk about what exactly this condition is and how to check to see if you have it.
WHAT IS DIASTASIS RECTI?
Diastasis recti is a thinning of the connective tissue that runs between your six pack muscles. The linea alba is the connective tissue that runs down the center of your tummy. Think of this tissue like a ponytail holder. When we are pregnant, the tissue stretches and thins…brilliantly, to make room for growing baby. Let’s go back to our ponytail analogy. Much like a ponytail holder that got stretched, sometimes that ponytail holder snaps right back and regains its elasticity, and sometimes…if stretched quite far…it loses that “snap.” As such, you may feel a separation between your rectus abdominis or “six pack” muscles.
If you have the condition, you aren’t alone. Nearly 1 in 2 women has some degree of abdominal separation. And know that a lot of healing happens spontaneously in those first six months postpartum. Most importantly…don’t freak out. It can improve vastly with proper exercises and a little brain retraining!
HOW TO CHECK?
First off, your doctor may or may not have checked you for the condition. And even if he/she did check, many aren’t sure how to go about healing it. We will touch more on this later.
The most important thing to note on a self check is that you want to lift your head and shoulders off the ground as minimally as possible. If you go into too much of a sit up, you will get a false reading that your rectus muscles are closer together than they really are. Secondly, you need to check the width…and most importantly…the depth. Understanding the tension on that tissue is important.
WHAT DO I DO IF I HAVE IT?
If you have diastasis recti, please know that there are ways to heal and improve it. You may have been told surgery is the only way, but even if you have surgery at some point, you still need to know and understand how to use your core and pelvic floor.
1: Time. It can take time for your body to heal and feel better postpartum. Please be patient with yourself and understand that we don’t all “snap back” like social media would have us believe. While a lot of spontaneous healing can happen over those first six months, being proactive can help greatly. And, please know that no matter how far out postpartum you are (yes, postpartum is forever…so even if your kids are 35 this applies)…it is never too late to heal and improve the condition.
2: Managing Intra-Abdominal Pressure. Breathing is the hidden superpower. Understanding how to manage your intra-abdominal pressure is key at allowing this tissue to heal. My Core Basics program goes over this in great detail.
3: Mindfulness. Being aware of how you hold your body can make a difference. Think of your body like a snowman. We want our head, ribs and pelvis all stacked. Also, be mindful of your body in every day activities. Again, my program goes over how to best use your core in every day life, too.
Seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist hands on is always great if that is available to you. Click here to find one in your area.