In many bodies, diastasis recti heals incredibly well. In some bodies, it does not.
It’s commonly thought that most, if not all, pregnant bodies will experience some degree of abdominal separation.
When people hear the term ‘diastasis recti’, it’s usually thought about in terms of the abdominal muscles having a gap between them down the midline of the belly. This is true, but not at all the whole story.
This means as you think about healing your diastasis post-pregnancy, you understand that the main goal isn’t simply to bring your abdominal muscles back together. There is no definitive number of milimetres the gap between your abdominal muscles needs to be in order to determine whether or not it is healed.
We want to re-gain optimal function back to the entire core canister system. Your healing process will include attention on how the diaphragm, the glutes, the deep abdominal muscles, and the pelvic floor are all working together as a team.
YOUR BODY IS SMART.
To grow a baby in your body, your abdominal wall needs to stretch. A lot. Luckily, your body can make that happen.
It’s incredible, although, not always the most comfortable.
Your belly makes this happen through the abdominal muscles and tissues stretching and lengthening. The linea alba is connective tissue that runs from your sternum to your pubic bone, and connects the two sides of your “six pack” muscles, or rectus abdominis muscles, and becomes stretched.
The belly on the right is indicative of what the separation of abdominal muscles and stretched linea alba can look like during or after pregnancy. Photo from my friend Jenny Burrell, at Burrell Education.
The linea alba becomes stretched, allowing your baby to have the room that it needs to grow. When this happens, the abdominal muscles can now have a gap, to varying degrees, between them.
To put it super simply, that connective tissue that runs down the midline of your belly, becomes more like a pair of yoga pants you can see-through when you bend over.
You know that stretch and thinning of the fabric in your most well worn yoga pants when it’s pulled taut? Imagine that is what the linea alba is doing.
DON’T FREAK OUT!
It’s going to be fine. Seriously.
Your body is smart and your abdominal wall stretches for a reason. The reason being to allow your body to grow a baby to full term (or thereabouts).
As I said above, in most bodies, diastasis recti is going to heal just fine, especially with some attention to detail and understanding what it needs to truly heal well.
5 Reasons Your Diastasis Recti Is NOT Healing (…Yet!)
By “not healing”, I mean that these things might be happening in your body:
• You are more than 6 weeks postpartum and your linea alba is feeling verrrrry squishy, weak, and is not generating tension when you are attempting to make it do so.
• You can push way down deep into your belly along the linea alba when you are trying to create tension through the abdominal wall.
I do not mean that your abdominals or belly feels squishy. That is extremely normal post-pregnancy (or literally WHENEVER).
1). You’ve been carrying your body and your baby in non-optimal alignment, especially under load.
We want to give our bodies the best shot at creating a good working relationship between the core and the pelvic floor.
Your aim to help the core and floor work well together? Stack your body with your ribcage over the pelvis.
Or, are you’re rib thrusting’ all day long and in exercise?
Or, maybe you’re tucking your bum and tailbone under often throughout the day in standing, loaded, or seated positions.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you live in ‘perfect’ alignment with the ribs over hips all day long. No way! You want to move through many, variable positions throughout your daily life.
That being said, for now, I would encourage you to be as close to this alignment when you’re loaded though, for example when carrying kids, lifting weights, exercising, running, and during pregnancy.
2). Your breathing needs tweaking.
Maybe you’re a breath holder, maybe you only breathe into your upper chest and shoulders, or maybe you send all your breath to your belly.
Instead, what you will want to strive for is breathing into your whole trunk.
When you take an inhale breath you want to feel the air move into the chest, the ribcage, and the belly.
In most life and exercise scenarios we want to breathe into the chest, the ribcage and the belly. All to some degree. No to only one spot or another.
That being said, what can be helpful for many people is think about breathing into the sides of the ribcage as they might be less comfortable breathing into the ribs and more comfortable breathing more so into the chest or belly, only.
In this photo, I’m demoing how to feel the breath go into the ribcage on the inhale, and then out of the ribcage on the exhale by holding a resistance band around your mid-back area. You will feel the resistance band expand on your inhale breath from the front, sides, and back.
*IMPORTANT! Take notice to see if you are holding your belly in or sucking your belly in tight throughout the day. You want to allow your belly to relax and be soft in most of your daily life unless you are actively lifting, carrying, twisting, and exerting your body.
3). Your digestion isn’t easy and you’re often bloated.
If you’re feeling chronic discomfort in your stomach it can definitely affect how the core and pelvic floor muscles are functioning and thus, how your diastasis is or isn’t healing.
Are you holding your breath and trying to hold your belly in tight most of the day? Are you having difficulty with bowel movements? Are you straining or pushing hard to poop? Do you have the urge to go and nothing happens?
If you’re experiencing frequent bloating, it’s worth sorting out what the root cause of that is. Is it food related? Stress induced? From holding your belly in tight constantly? Not being able to have regular, easy bowel movements?
4). Your diastasis became quite large and weak throughout pregnancy.
You might be someone who has a small frame and grows big, healthy, beautiful babies. This could leave the gap between the abdominal muscles wide and the connective tissue weaker than normal.
If this is your situation it could require some additional care to ensure that you’re using engaging through the core and pelvic floor properly, that you understand what optimal alignment in lifting feels like, that you are using your breath well, etc.
This is a really great visual from The Tummy Team of how core training can help to support the abdominal wall and baby’s position in your body during pregnancy.
A trained, experienced fitness coach who specializes in postnatal exercise realm, or a pelvic floor physiotherapist can help you heal your diastasis if you’re unsure of what to do next.
5). Your Body Isn’t Loving The Exercises You’re Doing
This is a biggie. Many fitness professionals who specialize in postnatal exercise are currently making the claim that it’s not the specific exercise or movement that will affect your body’s function, but how you DO it.
I agree with parts of this idea, but not fully.
The core is a canister. I call the core, “a top, a bottom, and stuff around it.” #science.
We need to ensure that the core is handling that pressure effectively from the top, the bottom, the front and the back, in the exercises we’re doing during workout time.
Perhaps you’ve been doing a lot of double leg raises where you’re belly is bulging out with every rep.
Or, maybe you’re doing front plank holds and holding your breath throughout the set.
We need to make some adjustments in these circumstances. Perhaps simply with your form or technique, or perhaps with the exercises entirely.