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Diastasis Recti (Part 1): Understanding The Changes

Updated: Mar 19

Diastasis Recti (DR) —is a natural part of the incredible journey of carrying and birthing a baby, but it can leave many feeling unsure and self-conscious about their bodies. Especially with all the outdated information out there and the marketing BS from the fitness industry. So let's delve into what diastasis recti is, how it affects us, and most importantly, how we can navigate the recovery journey with confidence and strength.

What is Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis Recti, often referred to as abdominal separation, occurs when the two halves of the rectus abdominis muscle separate along the linea alba, the connective tissue that runs down the midline of the abdomen. This happens as the uterus expands during pregnancy, creating space for the growing baby.

It's a feature, not a bug!

There's nothing wrong with your bump, mama! It's important to recognise that DR is not a flaw or a failure of our bodies; rather, it's a natural adaptation to accommodate the extra space required by pregnancy. You can't prevent it or eliminate it while growing your baby. It's there for a reason and acceptance is the way. By the end of pregnancy, virtually all women will have some degree of diastasis recti (sooner if you're carrying more than one baby). It's a testament to the remarkable capacity of the human body to expand, nurture a new life (or two), and then gradually heal and restore itself. You're incredible, mama!

The Healing Process:

After birth, as your uterus returns to its pre-baby size, your core and abdominals will also change and heal, adjusting to the demands of postnatal life. The process of recovering from diastasis recti is gradual and can take time—from 2 to 18 months postpartum.

However, it's essential to shift the focus away from measuring and numbers and instead concentrate on function and personal goals. The fixation with the 2 cm gap is old school, mama! In recent years, research and rehab practices around DR have evolved past the systematic measuring of the gap between your abdominals and focus much more on how the separation is affecting you, improving symptoms and quality of life as primary measures of success.

Signs and Symptoms of Diastasis Recti:

DR affects each mum differently. It's important to focus on your own experience and not worry about labels and arbitrary measures. Most mums hardly notice it and the minimal separation they've developed in their third trimester recovers in a few months post-birth and has no impact on their life. Others are affected aesthetically, noticing a softness or a bulge around their belly button area as well as coning of the midline area when they contract they abs. For some mothers DR is associated with a varied spectrum of functional symptoms:

  • core weakness, especially when lifting objects or twisting

  • pelvic and back pain

  • constipation

  • leaking urine under stress (coughing, lifting weights, etc)

If you've been told that these symptoms are a normal part of being a mum and you just need to get used to peeing yourself when you jump or having back pain, or feeling weak around your core, well...let me reassure you that's BS, mama! Although these symptoms are common among mums, they can definitely be improved and resolved with attention and the right support. Your body has changed a lot over a relatively short period of time and your core system needs a bit more help learning how to work together again. You've created and birthed a human! Retraining your core gently and mindfully over time isn't the thing that's gonna stop you!

Starting Your Recovery:

For most mums DR healing happens spontaneously over the first few months after birth, while for others, recovery is a journey that requires more intention and support. Professionals like myself can play an important role in supporting your DR recovery. But before any formal assessments and especially before any measurements of the gap between your abdominals, I always recommend you start with asking yourself these questions:

- What is your experience of DR? What is bothering you?

- Are you experiencing pelvic or low back pain or discomfort?

- Do you feel limited in your range of motion or strength?

- Do you experience any weakness or feel less confident in some movements?

- Are you having any urinary symptoms?

And last, but not least...

- Once you're fully recovered, what does life feel like? What are your specific goals?

Whatever your answers, this will be your starting point of your recovery, the place from which we will build your personalised plan and strategically get you closer and closer to your end goals. Because whether the space between your abs is more or less than 2cm, you deserve to be pain free and feel stronger and more confident in your body than ever before.

Remember mama, Diastasis Recti is a natural part of motherhood, reminding us of the incredible strength and resilience of our body. By focusing on function and giving ourselves some patience and self-compassion as we recover, we can navigate this journey with more confidence and grace. Let's embrace our bodies for the miracles they are and celebrate our journey of healing and strength.

What more practical tips for your recovery?

In part 2 we will look more closely at DR recovery strategies such as posture, alignment, managing intra-abdominal pressure and of course, exercises to support the right muscle groups.

If you're ready to have a personalised assessment and plan to move forward with your recovery, you don't have to wait for the next article,

you can take action now!

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