Diastasis recti simplified: it’s a separation or gap between your abdominal muscles.
Technically speaking, there is a complex line of connective tissue that connects the left and right sides of your abdominal muscles and it’s known as the linea alba. The line alba runs from xyphoid process at the bottom of your sternum, all the way to your pubic symphysis (think of the line that runs down the middle of the stomach in a person with a six-pack).
Now this connective tissue can stretch, making the gap wider (diastasis recti). BUT that’s not always a bad thing! In fact, this happens to EVERYBODY during pregnancy. Every woman, at some point during her pregnancy, will experience some degree of abdominal separation. What’s more, it doesn’t just happen during pregnancy – the linea alba can stretch whenever there is too much intra-abdominal pressure, and it can stretch in guys too (another reason not go for a huge beer belly).
Let’s consider the case of pregnancy though since I’ve had a couple of babies myself, and I work a lot with pregnant women and new moms. Normally, the distance between the left and right sides of the rectus abdominus muscle decreases markedly on it’s own from day 1 to week 8 after pregnancy (Coldron et al. 2008). However, that same study showed that if there is still a gap after 8 weeks, and no intervention is done to help it, the gap will remain unchanged at 1 year postpartum. Yikes!
And it gets worse… 66% of women with diastasis recti have some kind of pelvic floor dysfunction: urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence and/or pelvic organ prolapse (Spitznagle et al. 2007). Double yikes!
So how do you know if you have one?
Well, you might have a “mummy tummy”, or a bit of a poochy belly, or you might even still look a few months pregnant… and it might seem better in the morning but worse by the end of the day. You might feel weak in your core, you might have back pain, or you might have some pelvic floor dysfunction (peeing while you sneeze anyone?). You might have even noticed your abdomen bulge or dome when you move.
But if you see a clinician like a pelvic health physiotherapist (come and see me!), we will try and measure it and you can do the same at home.
Check out the video below to see how to check your abdomen for any gap or diastasis recti. The model (me) also has a mummy tummy and a large diastasis. 😉
And what if you find a gap? Well, stay tuned for a follow-up blog post on exactly that!