Diastasis Recti and Tips for Optimal Healing Postpartum

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Diastasis Recti and Tips for Optimal Healing Postpartum

Diastasis recti, or diastasis as it is more commonly referred, is composed of two straps of muscle (“six-pack”) held at the midline by the Linea Alba.

As the belly expands during pregnancy, there is additional stretch and strain on the Linea Alba. This means that the two rectus muscles can migrate away from that midline position, leaving a greater gap (called the inter-recti distance).

The term “diastasis recti” means “separation of the recti.” Despite years of research, no one has ever been able to determine what would be considered a “normal” inter-recti distance. In both Internet search results as well as clinical research, most of the focus is on inter-recti distance, but what we know now is that the size of the gap is not the biggest determinant of function. What is most important is the ability of the connective tissue to generate and maintain tension, and to contribute to control and stability.

Diastasis isn't something we can prevent, and it is a normal response to pregnancy. There are things we can do to reduce the chances of experiencing it.

Diastasis Recti and Tips for Optimal Healing Postpartum

Here are some things you can do during pregnancy and postpartum to help lessen the chance of diastasis recti becoming a major issue after you have your baby:

During Pregnancy

The most important factors to pay attention to are your pelvic position and your overall body posture. Leaning back and thrusting the pelvis forward is a common response to a growing belly to accommodate the shifting center of gravity, but this actually places more strain on that abdominal wall and back and can contribute to the potential of the abdominal muscles migrating further away, and the connective tissue being more impaired with regard to its ability to provide tension.

The Prepare to Push™ program is The Most Innovative Birth Preparation Program Available! It applies the fitness principle of specificity to labour and birth prep. You need to train for your big event using movement and exercise that is as close to the event as possible.

Diastasis Recti and Tips for Optimal Healing Postpartum

The Birth Life a Boss Challenge gets your body ready for your best birth with a daily workout for 4 weeks in the Buff Muff App. It is a 28-day program that applies the principle of specificity from fitness to labour prep. Pelvic floor focused, whole-body workouts to help you birth powerfully

During Labor

Birth is a dynamic process. For decades, the “pushing”  process of birth has been depicted as something that moms lie down and accept it, but this is not true. You are an active participant and have a vital role in the birthing process!

The more you move, the more you will facilitate the entrance of your baby into the world. Commonly shown birthing positions (lying on your back, being in a semi-reclined position in bed) can limit the sacrum from moving by locking it into place. If the sacrum doesn't have the capacity to move it can make birthing harder because the pelvic outlet will be smaller. The result is that you may have to push harder or push longer. Being on your back also doesn't harness the power of gravity.  For those who do find their power in a back lying position, it can help to put a rolled up towel under each butt cheek to help free the sacrum.

Diastasis Recti and Tips for Optimal Healing Postpartum

How long after childbirth can I start exercising?

Finally, after birthing your baby, focus on your own healing. The first eight weeks postpartum are when spontaneous healing is happening in the abdominal wall, as well as all over the body. Harnessing the first eight weeks with some restorative strategies can greatly assist in recovery and long-term wellness.

Bellies Inc Ab Wrap

The Ab Wrap™ from Bellies Inc is specifically designed to help provide support to the pelvis and abdominal wall while restorative exercise helps retrain the inner core unit.  Inspired by practices around the world that honour the first 40 days postpartum, the Ab Wrap™ is like a gentle hug for mom - almost like swaddling - which provides comfort and confidence.

Diastasis Recti and Tips for Optimal Healing Postpartum

How long after birth do I have to wait to start exercising?

Many new moms have questions almost immediately about how long after childbirth they can start exercising, how to tone up after giving birth, or about “getting their body back.” The body never left so it is not about getting it back but rather rebuilding strength and function after all the changes that occurred in pregnancy and birth.

Many new moms experience urinary incontinence, and it is important to know that this is common but not something you need to accept as normal.  It often happens as a result of returning to exercise too soon. Treatment is available from kegels, hypopressives and a pelvic floor physiotherapist. For this and many other reasons, boot camp-style fitness programs or high-intensity workouts are not the right choices for new moms. Core retraining and gradual progressive overload is recommended with a return to higher intensity activities reserved for about 6 months postpartum.

Allowing for rest, moving slowly, and building strength back intentionally instead of forcefully will yield more successful results in every aspect of postpartum recovery and long-term health.

Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy

Working with a pelvic floor professional after having a baby can help empower new moms to know their bodies, receive guidance on how they can actively assist in their own postpartum recovery and be empowered to address concerns with a knowledgeable practitioner. Incontinence, pelvic pain, organ prolapse or other issues are common for new moms; however, they are not normal and you should not have to just live with them or suffer through them. Effective treatments are available from experienced pelvic floor therapists who specialize in helping new moms get the knowledge and support they need to live the lives they want after they have their baby.

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Further Resource:

What’s the Deal with Diastasis Recti Part 1