Updated: Apr 13
Diastasis Recti is the spreading of fascia that connects your 6-pack abs, or Rectus Abdominis, our most superficial layer of abdominal wall.
We have four layers of abs. Our deepest layers, Transversus Abdominis and Internal Obliques help to stabilize us prior to movement, while our more superficial layers External Obliques and Rectus Abdominis are our primary movers. They all connect in the center of our abdomen through fascia.
Diastasis Recti will occur in 100% of pregnant women in their 3rd trimester Mota et al. (2015), and 39% have it postpartum. This is a normal part of the process as the belly stretches and distends to accommodate the growing uterus. Diastasis will often resolve by the end of the fourth trimester, or 3 months postpartum, unless it is very severe with an underlying movement dysfunction that can reinforce the diastasis.
People who have diastasis often feel they still look pregnant even long after they have given birth. They might notice more distension in their abdominal wall after eating as the abs cannot contain the contents of the GI will. They may also notice coning or doming through the abdominal wall with sitting up or with exercise.
How To Test
It's important to understand that although we want to know how wide the diastasis is, what appears to matter the most for function, aesthetics, and healing is actually the change in the depth.
Lying on your back, place two fingers 2 inches above your navel. Gently lift your head off the floor, and feel for a "gap" that your two fingers sink into. Any gap is considered a diastsis, but may be as narrow as 1 finger or as wide as 4. If you have a gap, note how wide it is but also notice how deep. Is it very shallow with a lot of tension underneath? Is it cavernous generating no tension at all?
Repeat this test at the umbilicus as well as 2 inches below. Your diastasis may vary in width and depth depending on location.
If you find a separation that is wider than 2 fingers or if it is deep, you will need assistance and a specialized exercise program to help heal your diastasis.
Healing Diastasis Recti
Anyone can work to heal their diastasis, even years postpartum. The process includes finding the underlying reason for the ongoing diastasis. Some of these include:
Rib flare/shallow breathing
Upper abdominal clenching
Lack of lower abdominal strength
Lack of hip stability
Pelvic floor issues
More and more we are finding out that the width of the diastasis may or may not change, however the depth can change dramatically and is more functionally important. I have a huge passion for helping women heal diastasis, which I believe is a very underserved diagnosis. In clinic we perform a thorough evaluation of all of the different components that can be contributing to a diastasis, and then start unwinding them while building up the abs in a healthy way.
If you are dealing with diastasis, make sure you book your session today!
Mota, P., Pascoal, A.G., Carita, A.I., & Bø, K. (2015). Prevalence and risk factors of diastasis recti abdominis from late pregnancy to 6 months postpartum, and relationship with lumbo-pelvic pain. Manual Therapy, 20(1), 200-205, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.math.2014.09.002