Over 60% of pregnancies result in an abdominal separation wider than 2 – 2.5 finger-widths apart1. Pregnant moms who experience this abdominal separation are considered to have the condition of “Diastasis Recti.” This condition typically develops in the latter part of the second trimester or third trimester as the abdominal wall has begun to stretch to accommodate your growing baby.
Factors that lead to Diastasis Recti developing in pregnancy include2:
- gaining a lot of weight quickly upon becoming pregnant
- gaining too much weight throughout your pregnancy
- carrying more than one baby
- carrying a big baby
- you are over the age of 35
- subsequent pregnancies that are close together
- poor core strength or posture pre-pregnancy
In most cases, the good news is that Diastasis Recti in pregnancy will heal naturally post-birth, especially if you take the proper steps and do the correct exercises while pregnant2.
Many things can be done to limit diastasis recti during pregnancy. First, I recommend that all pregnant women check themselves for Diastasis Recti to avoid accidentally worsening the Diastasis Recti condition. You can use the same traditional Diastasis Recti test used in pregnancy and postpartum to look for other signs that may indicate you have Diastasis Recti during pregnancy.
How to Know if You Have Diastasis Recti During Pregnancy:
1. Look at Your Belly Button: If the belly button bulges out, that can indicate Diastasis Recti.
2. Look at Your Bump: If you can visibly see a gap around the belly button and above and below it, that can indicate Diastasis Recti.
3. Traditional test:
- Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Exhale and lift your head and shoulders off the floor – put one hand behind your head to support your neck.
- Make sure you contract your rectus abdominis muscle – bring your rib cage closer to your hips, rather than just bringing up your head.
- Place your fingers in a horizontal position across your belly button and feel above, over, and below the belly button. Assess the width and depth of the gap. It is also relevant if there is a gap and how firm or loose the sheath under the belly button feels.
- If the width of the gap is more than 2 cm (about 2.5 fingers wide), you have Diastasis Recti.
If you do have Diastasis Recti during pregnancy, or to try to limit the risk of you getting Diastasis Recti, there are several steps you can take:
How to Limit Diastasis Recti During Pregnancy
1. Proper Posture
It would be best if you tried to maintain a neutral spine at all times. Do not stand or walk with your belly pushed out.
2. Mindful Movement
Think about how you get up and down from the floor or a seated position. When getting out of bed or up from the floor, roll onto your side and then push up with your hands. Never use your abdominal muscles alone to get up, particularly from the latter stages of your second trimester and on.
3. Avoid the Cone
Anything that causes your belly to “cone” should be avoided. Looking at your belly is a good way to monitor whether the abdominal pressure is too great.
4. Strengthen the Core
Consider exercises and programs that help you maintain a strong core without increasing your risk of Diastasis Recti or making it worse. Focus on programs that include full-body movements, as exercises like a squat or a lunge can be an excellent core workout because you need to activate your core to balance. Other core-specific exercises that may help limit Diastasis Recti include things like:
- Pillow Hugs
- TVA Squeezes
- Heel Drops
You’ve got this, mama!