Rectus Diastasis - The Six Pack Split
August 03, 2015 at 11:41 AM
Did you know that during pregnancy your abdominal muscles can stretch but up to 50%!
It’s not surprising then, that about one third of all pregnant women experience separation of the rectus abdominus muscle which is the superficial layer of abdominals that runs vertically from your rib cage down to your pubic bone. The two halves of the rectus run parallel and are separated in the middle by connective tissue called the linea alba which forms the midline of your stomach. During pregnancy hormones cause this connective tissue to soften to allow room for the baby to grow which gradually causes the left and right sides of the muscle to pull away from each other causing a gap or diastasis down the middle.
Some degree of separation occurs in all pregnancies and a one to two finger gap is usually not problematic. However, significant diastasis recti can take longer to improve after birth and cause problems such as low back or pelvis pain. If it is not controlled prior to a subsequent pregnancy you can also be at risk of umbilical hernia.
The good news is that some simple exercises that focus on the deeper layer of abdominal muscles can help to prevent and lessen the effects of the separation while you are pregnant and reduce the gap postpartum. Supervised Pregnancy Pilates is one great way of safely keep your abdominals strong while pregnant with the focus on the deeper layer or abdominals and pelvic floor to avoid too much strain on the rectus muscle.
Post-Natally if you have some degree of separation getting is assessed early is key! There is evidence that abdominal binding (such as using a compression bandage or tubigrip) around the stomach in the early stages post birth can reduce the diastasis faster and getting specific exercises to rehabilitate your abdominal muscles is really important.
How to check for a diastasis recti:
Lie on your back with your legs out straight
Place your fingers just above your belly button pointing down towards your pelvis
Lift your head and shoulders up off the floor to contract to abdominals while feeling for separation under your fingers, you should be able to feel the left and right edges of rectus abdominis.