Diastasis Recti, commonly referred to as abdominal separation, is the separation of the rectus abdominis muscle. It looks like a ridge running vertically down the stomach from the breastbone to the belly button. Pregnancy can lead to this common condition because of increased pressure and tension on the abdominal wall. It also occurs commonly in newborns, particularly those born prematurely.
In newborns, the rectus abdominis muscles will keep growing until the diastasis recti corrects itself. Very rarely, the baby can develop a hernia between the muscles and will require surgery. New mothers can correct diastasis recti in a matter of weeks by carefully performing exercises about three times a week.
Wait until your doctor has given you the postpartum go-ahead for exercise.
When performing any abdominal exercises, avoid activities that put stress on the midline--the line of abdominal separation. Do not stretch or overly expand the abdominal wall through everyday activities.
Do not do any heavy lifting, stretching yoga poses, and do not perform abdominal exercises with your back resting on an exercise ball. When coughing intensely, place hands across belly and support your abdomen, holding it together.
Make sure to contract the lower belly deeply during all abdominal exercises and ensure that the belly is not bulging out.
Strengthen the transverse abdominis, the deepest layer of the abdominal wall, which acts as an internal girdle. It is important to condition this muscle before moving on to the rectus abdominis.
Perform reverse crunches while pulling your lower stomach toward your spine. Repeat 10 times.
Lift legs up at a 45-degree angle from the floor and pull lower abdomen toward your spine; hold this position for 10 seconds while breathing deeply. Repeat 10 times.
Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on floor. Place hands on abdomen, pointing down towards pubic bone with fingers. Slowly lift head while exhaling as you press down and into your belly with fingers. Repeat 6 to 12 times, as recommended by Lisa Stone, ACE, a certified fitness instructor who specialises in pre- and postnatal fitness.
Wrap a long towel around your torso and lie down on your back on a mat. As you start to perform a regular stomach crunch, pull the ends of the towel towards each other in front of the belly button to push the separated abdominal muscles together. Repeat about 12 times.
Exhale and pull your stomach inward toward your spine, engaging your abdominal muscles without pushing them away from the body. You can do this while standing, sitting, or lying down.
The sooner you begin to try and close the diastisis recti after your delivery, the sooner you will see change. You can still work on it months after the delivery, but it may take longer to fix.
Before beginning any exercises, consult with your doctor about your postpartum condition and ask about diastasis recti. Always do exercises that do not push your abdominal wall away from the body.
Tips and warnings
- The sooner you begin to try and close the diastisis recti after your delivery, the sooner you will see change. You can still work on it months after the delivery, but it may take longer to fix.
- Before beginning any exercises, consult with your doctor about your postpartum condition and ask about diastasis recti.
- Always do exercises that do not push your abdominal wall away from the body.