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Myth #1: This Was Avoidable

Updated: Oct 17, 2018


This is the second post of a 5 part series - 4 Myths about Diastasis Recti. You can read the original post HERE.

 

As I mentioned in the original post, research is now showing that 100% of women have a diastasis at the time of delivery (1). Okay, now I’m sure there’s the occasional unicorn woman out there who manages to avoid this, but - like infants who sleep through the night at 4 weeks and toddlers who potty train themselves - I’ll believe it when I see it.


So now that we know that a functional DR during pregnancy is totally normal, let’s take a deeper look into what is actually going on.


The literal translation of diastasis is “the abnormal separation of parts normally joined together,” while recti refers to the rectus abdominis muscles (your 6-pack). Putting it all together we get “the abnormal separation of the rectus abdominis muscles, normally joined together.”


But wait...


That’s not quite right.


Your rectus abdominis (RA - again, cool gal alert) is not normally joined together in the first place. If it were, all the Bro-Scientists would be showing off their “3-pack abs.” The RA is, however, joined together by a line of connective tissue called the linea alba (LA).

Imagine if you will, a string of connected hot dogs. The actual hot dog is your RA, while the casing that surrounds the hot dog and connects one to the other is your fascia. That connecting portion in the middle (which is just a continuation of the casing) is your LA.


Much like the elastic waistband of your favorite postpartum sweatpants, the LA is really good at stretching one way (in its case, vertical) and not so good at stretching the other way (horizontal). This is why you still look about 6 months pregnant when you leave the hospital - it takes the LA some time to pull itself back together after 9 long months of being slowly stretched.


So in summary, DR isn’t the problem, but a DR that overstays its welcome? Problem.


A problematic DR is one where the gap between your RA is too wide and/or too deep. It indicates an inability to properly maintain pressure in your abdominal cavity. Other clues that you may have a pressure problem are leaking urine or pelvic organ prolapse.


“Alright,” you say. “So I had my baby a couple months back. How do I know if everything is back together?”


To check yourself for DR, lay on your back, knees bent with feet on the floor and your arms by your sides. Curl up your head and shoulders and feel along your LA with two fingers (widthwise) pressing straight down towards the spine. You’ll check a few inches above your navel, at your navel, and a few inches below. Any invagination (sinking) width greater than 2 fingers or any doming regardless of width, indicates the presence of DR.


Repeat this check but with one small adjustment. Right before the curl-up, think of drawing your sits bones together (much like a Kegel). The depth of the invagination should be reduced and the LA should feel stronger. I use both versions of the screen to compare. The bigger the change in LA integrity, the easier recovery tends to be, as you already have a connection to your transverse abdominals (more on those later).


Now, I want to stress here that feeling “soft” in the middle or like you’ve “lost your core strength” does not automatically mean you have DR. I said it before, and I’m gonna say it again:

Please seek out a pre/postnatal exercise specialist or a physical therapist who is trained in DR recovery. They will give you the tools and techniques for your unique body and all of its movement quirks.


Let’s continue the conversation! Join our Facebook community of mamas and mamas-to-be on our journey to look, feel, and function better.

 

References

  1. Mota, P. G., 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, 200-205.

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