Answer by Laura Lucus, a personal trainer and yoga teacher specialising in pre & postnatal fitness.
What is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis Recti is the partial or complete separation of the rectus abdominis (“six-pack”) muscles which meet at the midline of your stomach. The abdominal wall is made up of layers of skin, fascia, external & internal obliques & TVA (transverse abdominal muscles), they all meet at the midline (the linea alba). During pregnancy, these layers stretch apart (diastasis). Most women will experience diastasis recti during pregnancy.
Diastasis recti is not just about the inter-recti distance (the abdominal gap). You can have a large gap and still have good tension beneath.
When the gap is large AND there is poor tension underneath you may need physio to help restore the deep abdominals to optimal function.
What can I do about it?
Here are some steps to take to improve tension and aid the healing process:
- See a women’s health physio & have your posture, pelvic floor & diastasis thoroughly checked.
- Learn to connect breath with movement in what Jenny Burrell calls Intrinsic Core Synergy® – tying together the TVA, pelvic floor, lumbar muscles and fascia via the breath. Try to master this with bodyweight and resistance banded exercises before adding more weight.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet & stay hydrated. Gut health is essential – antibiotics which are taken post c-section can affect the gut bacteria causing constipation: unnecessary pressure on abdominal wall.
- Focus on posture & breath when doing daily movements – e.g. when squatting to pick up your child take a deep inhale to squat & exhale and draw up through the pelvic floor as you pick up the child and come back up to stand.
- Manage your stress levels (which is very tough if you’ve just had a baby I know). Elevated cortisol (stress hormone) can slow the healing process, doing intense exercise before you are ready is counterproductive. Start slow and build up.
- Avoid sit-ups, crunches, planking, deep twisting before you are ready, there are plenty of other exercises which work your core without putting so much pressure on your abdominal wall.