Not all new mums will have heard of the postpartum abdominal condition called diastasis recti but it is actually incredibly common. Simply put, diastasis recti is where you have a gap in between your right and left abdominal wall muscles. Some women will only have partial separation of these muscles which is considered to be a mild case of diastasis recti whereas other women will have complete separation of these muscles which is a much more severe case.
Thankfully, it is easy to check if you have diastasis recti and how severe the separation of your ab muscles is, simply;
● Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor
● Slightly raise your shoulders
● Use your fingers to feel above and below your belly button for the separated muscles
● See how many finger widths you can fit into the gap between your muscles
● Measure your finger widths with a tape measure to find out how big the gap is in either cm or mm
You can see a video of this process over on our blog where we talk about measuring diastasis recti in much more detail or have a look at the below video
If you do have diastasis recti, it is likely that you will take to the internet to find out more about this condition or ask around if friends, family or other new mums know much about it. When doing so, you need to be careful as there are numerous misconceptions and lots of misleading information out there which will probably scare you or cause you to worry unnecessarily.
So, to help anyone who is struggling to separate the truth from the myths, below we have debunked some of the most frequently heard misconceptions, setting the record straight about this very common condition amongst pregnant women and postpartum women.
“Diastasis recti is irreversible”
Do not worry, lots of women find that their muscles will start to recover and their gap will go away by the time their baby is 8 weeks old. If this doesn’t happen for you, your muscles might be struggling to recover fully and retract back into position, but you still won’t be stuck with diastasis recti forever.
More often than not, medical professionals will recommend that you undertake some specific exercises to help with your diastasis recti. Sometimes, you may need to be referred to a physiotherapist and on very very rare occasions, surgery may be required. But, either way, diastasis recti definitely isn’t irreversible.
“You can’t exercise when you have diastasis recti”
Due to the fact that exercise is one of the most effective ways to help diastasis recti, this is definitely an incorrect statement. That being said, there is some truth behind this and you will need to be careful with what type of exercise you do.
When you have diastasis recti, your core muscles will be very weak, so it is important that you avoid doing any strenuous exercises that involve your ab muscles. For example, you should leave things like a plank out of your workout until your muscles are stronger.
“There are lots of quick fixes for diastasis recti”
Unfortunately, like lots of the other common issues that women experience post-pregnancy, from back pain to pelvic floor problems, there isn’t a quick fix to diastasis recti. You may come across websites telling you that things like waist trainers will be able to magically cure your separated muscles, but the truth is that they can’t.
In fact, studies have actually shown that wearing something like a corset or a waist trainer won’t help diastasis recti. You may even find that if you purchase a waist trainer that is too tight for you and wear it frequently, it hinders your recovery and causes damage to your abdominal area. ‘Quick fixes’ often end up doing more harm than good. If you’d like to read more here is a blog that tells you exactly how long it takes to recover from diastasis recti.
“If you don’t heal diastasis recti straight away then you’re stuck with it”
This is a very common misconception and one that can be really disheartening for women, but don’t worry, it simply isn’t true. It doesn’t matter how many years ago you gave birth, it is never too late to heal your separated stomach muscles.
You can start working on your core strength at any time and you will find that no matter how old your baby is now, when you spend some time focusing on these muscles, your diastasis recti will improve. Never think that it’s too late to make a difference.
“All ‘mum tums’ are actually just diastasis recti”
First of all, we think that the term ‘mum tum’ shouldn’t be used, but contrary to popular belief, not all ‘mummy tummies’ are diastasis recti. Every woman’s tummy will look different post-pregnancy and a ‘mum tum’ will actually differ quite a lot from person to person, it usually comes down to how a new mum perceives their own body too.
Some women still look pregnant months after they’ve given birth, others will have a cone-like shape to their tummy and some may have excess skin that they’re struggling to get rid of. All of these things can be classed as ‘mum tum’ but they aren’t diastasis recti. So, it is worth double-checking with a specialist if you’re not sure whether you actually have diastasis recti.
“There’s no point working on diastasis recti if you’re going to have another baby”
This is one of the most baffling myths that we frequently hear about diastasis recti and if you apply this logic to any other scenario, it simply wouldn’t make sense. Ultimately, the best thing you can do is to work on your core strength before you have another baby.
You will probably find that having stronger muscles is beneficial during this next pregnancy and it can even reduce the chances of you getting diastasis recti again too. So, don’t overlook strengthening your core simply because you’re planning to have another baby.
“All diastasis is the same”
This is quite a biggie. As you can see from the below image, there are several different kids of diastasis recti.
If you go to almost any diastasis recti support forum all solutions offered tend to be the same for all different kids of diastasis recti. Open above navel diastasis requires a slightly different approach than “normal” below navel diastasis. And most post-partum programs really only deal with open diastasis or open below navel diastasis. At HPNB we have been very careful and designed our program in such a way that open above, and completely open, diastasis will also be resolved as soon as possible. Of course the area below the belly button gets worked first, as that’s where most of the pressure sits during the pregnancy and we kind of have to start there first, but by week 9 we target the entire core area and above navel diastasis will start to be closed up by that stage as well.
“You will never be able to crunches and planks again”
Some women might be happy to come across this statement and being let off having to do planks, in particular, is something that not a lot of people would be unhappy about. However, this is another misconception and planks aren’t off the cards forever. In fact, they can be very useful indeed.
Whilst you will need to steer clear of intense abdominal exercises like crunches and planks for a while as you build up your strength, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do them in the future. Just make sure that you’re fully recovered before doing any ab heavy workouts.
Getting some post-natal exercise advice for your diastasis recti
All in all, it is fair to say that a lot of the information you come across about diastasis recti is simply a misconception and you really shouldn’t let this scare you. You will probably find that the things you hear from family and friends about this condition are just myths too, and in order to get the truth, you’re always best speaking to a medical professional or a personal trainer that specialises in postpartum exercise.
If you have noticed that your stomach muscles are still separated and your baby is a few months old, then our team here at Healthy Post-Natal Body will gladly help you. We can provide you with the tailored diastasis recti exercise advice that you need and our team of personal trainers will also put together some useful at-home exercises that you can do to strengthen your abdominal muscles and reduce the severity of your diastasis recti.
We understand that not everyone will know much about this common post-natal body problem, so we are here to guide you through your recovery. When you have an HPNB membership, you will also have access to forums where you can ask any questions that you may have. Not only can you get support from other members who are experiencing similar issues, but a fully qualified personal trainer will also be able to provide you with advice too.
The HPNB website is the best place to be when you’re suffering from diastasis recti or any other post-pregnancy body problems for that matter, like aches and pains or poor posture. We will always do all we can to help you get your health back and to make you fitter and stronger than you’ve ever been. We look forward to hearing from you.
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