Diastasis, from Greek, meaning separation
Diastasis recti is a fairly common condition of pregnancy and postpartum in which the right and left halves of Rectus Abdominis muscle spread apart at the body's mid line fascia, the linea alba.
Widening and thinning of the mid line tissue occurs in response the force of the Uterus pushing against the abdominal wall, in conjunction with pregnancy hormones that soften connective tissue. A mid line of more than 2 to 2.5 finger-widths, or 2 centimeters, is considered problematic. Diastasis recti can occur anytime in the last half of pregnancy but is most commonly seen after pregnancy when the abdominal wall is lax and the thinner mid line tissue no longer provides adequate support for the torso and internal organs.
A small amount of widening of the mid line happens in all pregnancies and is normal. Diastasis recti occurs in about 30% of all pregnancies. Some postpartum women's mid lines close to less than 2 finger-widths spontaneously, but for many, the tissue remains too wide, causing problems.
Diastasis recti can also be seen in infants and adults with excessive abdominal visceral fat.
Diastatsis recti reduces the integrity and functional strength of the abdominal wall and can aggravate lower back pain and pelvic instability. Separation in a previous pregnancy significantly increases the probability, and severity, of the condition in subsequent pregnancies. Women expecting more than one baby, petite women, those with a pronounced sway back, or with poor abdominal muscle tone are at greatest risk.
Genetics also plays a big role. For some women, it simply how their bodies respond to pregnancy.
Unfortunately, flurries of misconception swirl around diastasis recti and abdominal exercise during and after pregnancy in general. You're likely to encounter a broad range of contradictory opinions and advice about how to recondition your abdominal wall and how to restore the midline after childbirth. Some of these assertions can cause unnecessary alarm, while another common piece of advice-do a lot of "crunches"-can actually worsen diastasis recti/abdominal separation
DIASTASIS RECTI-ABDOMINAL SEPARATION TEST
RECOVERY AND REHABILITATION
Most postnatal fitness programs feature standard abdominal exercises like crunches and curls, and advise women with diastasis recti to manually splint their midlines together with either the hands or a towel wrapped around the belly while performing these exercises. However, reliance on external forces only will not adequately close the gap in your midline.
Additionally, prenatal and postpartum exercises that use lower spine flexion rather than upper spine flexion provide many more benefits and should be used whenever possible. Exercises that flex the upper spine should be done sparingly, if at all during and after pregnancy.
External splinting (either with the hands, a towel, or belly binder) of the rectus abdominis without first having established adequate strength and functional control in your TvA will not repair diastasis recti. External splinting performs the function that your TvA should be doing, therefore the muscle does not engage and stays weak with poor functioning. When the TvA lacks adequate strength and functional control, then the abdominal wall bulges out upon exertion, which stretches the midline and can make abdominal separation worse.
I like to call it splinting, even more than binding or bracing which hint at constriction, and I never recommend stand-alone splinting without the proper exercises to go with it.
I firmly believe we need to get a splint and a list of basic belly-breathing and pelvic floor exercises + some simple alignment tips into the hands of each new mom within hours after she has her baby. I believe it should be standard operation procedure in birth centers and hospitals worldwide. With surgical births, a few extra days might be needed for the wound to heal before wrapping, but I’ve spoken with labor and delivery nurses who splint their c-mamas right off and ones who wait, and as long as the dressing is being tended and allowed breaks to breathe, the benefits of immediate splinting in terms of faster recovery far outweigh any possible risks. I’ve got hundreds of stories to share with you if you have questions on this.
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Again, please note is that splinting your belly will only yield long-term changes if you strengthen your core muscles at the same time. If you splint without retraining your abs to do their job, the splint becomes a crutch. We don’t want that. Splinting should be a temporary tool to help permanently recommission your God-given girdle. We want to give your core a “tool” to get better, not a “crutch” on which to develop dependence.
Think of a splint like a walking cast: Doctors realized that when they put hard braces or casts on people with broken ankles and kept them off their feet, the unloaded bones didn’t heal as fast. If you only splint and don’t remind that broken tissue to start doing what it’s meant to do, you won’t heal as fast! If you have a really big gap, then you need to splint while learning new alignment and some simple core exercises to really get your belly flatter
This quick crunch-free, plank-free mini-workout you’re about to do will connect your breath and alignment to your core throughout several simple motions. The second video summarizes the first video in a short recap.
You don’t need to lie down to do “Totally Transverse,” and you can do the exercises while sitting or standing. It’s a kid friendly, mom-friendly, dad-friendly, grandma and grandpa-friendly, pregnant-friendly workout that will truly start to tone your tummy from the inside out! It’s not about the 6-pack. It’s about a bigger, deeper abdominal muscle called your transverse abdominus (TA) and how it co-activates with the other muscles in your core canister.
This routine and the others in the “First Foundational Five“ are designed to start bringing your core strength back online. Plus it’s a great mini-workout for diastasis recti victims who wish to start learning how to keep the pressure off their abdominal fascia. Enjoy the exercise and education!