Diastasis Recti – unravelling the myths

Updated: Jul 28

Part of our new Blog Take Over! series from Niamh Morrin, Baby and I @babyandi.herts

See Lucy and Niamh talk about this new development on Dance Mama on IGTV

Niamh Morrin, our new guest blogger, Dance Scientist and Pre and Postnatal Corrective Exercise Specialist

“It’s all about the gap”

“Once my gap has closed I am safe to do any exercise”

“My rectus abdominal muscles tore during pregnancy”

“I can’t do any front-loaded exercises with my diastasis”

“I must do x,y,z to heal my diastasis”

“I am too long postnatal to heal now”

“A diastasis recti always looks like a distended tummy”

“A diastasis recti is only related to the rectus abdominal muscles”

There are many myths and misunderstandings surrounding the diastasis recti (DR). Myths can instil fear of movement and delay healing. The following article will hopefully disperse these myths and provide a fuller understanding of a DR.

What is Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis recti is the term used to describe the stretching and thinning of the connective tissue that runs down the middle of the abdomen between the two sides of the rectus abdominal or 6 pack muscles. Diastasis recti is a natural process and according to Mota et al., (2015) 100% of pregnant women will have it at their due date – some womens’ diastasis will heal on their own whilst many others will need specific exercises to help it heal.

The connective tissue involved in a DR is called the linea alba. There are a number of abdominal muscles that contribute to the formation of this connective tissue. Most obviously the linea alba connects the two sides of our rectus abdominal muscles. In addition, tendon like extensions of our lateral abdominal muscles feed into and contribute to the make-up of the linea alba – these muscles include the external obliques, the internal obliques and transverse abdominals. The linea alba therefore acts as a midline anchor for all the abdominal wall muscles and it is therefore all these muscles that pull and generate force at the linea alba. What is most important here is an understanding that all our core muscles need to be involved in the postnatal rehabilitation of the core and successful healing of a DR.

Figure 1: Core muscles to work on if you have a diastasis. Reference: Hudani, M (2020). Diastasis Rectus Abdominis: Start here (Part 1). Available at: https://www.munirahudanipt.com/single-post/diastasis-rectus-abdominis-start-here-part-1

What does a Diastasis Recti look like?

As a dancer, aesthetics and how we feel about our body can be a big part of what we do and who we are. We can assume that all DR’s look like a distended tummy or pooch but understanding that it can look and feel very different from person to person is very important.

  • You might have a “mummy tummy” or “mummy pooch” where the lower and/or middle part of the abdomen is loose and distended out.

  • ·Your whole abdomen could look like it is still rounded out or distended.

  • You might not have any abdominal distension but you might notice a vertical “gap” down the midline of your abdomen.

  • You might not notice anything too different aesthetically, but you just feel much weaker and disconnected to your core.

How do you check for a Diastasis Recti?

It is usually best to have a postnatal exercise specialist, a pelvic health or women’s health physiotherapist check this for you – however, you might want to check it yourself also so let’s make sure you have a few pointers to get an accurate finding.

What we are looking for when checking for a DR is any gapping between the two sides of the rectus abdominal muscles and any squishiness or sinking feeling in the linea alba. Traditionally a DR was only assessed by the “gap” however a DR is now more commonly assessed by width and depth. A DR is confirmed as having a gap of more than 2 finger widths and/or a sinking feeling down into the linea alba. A healed diastasis is firm or trampoline feeling for depth, and a gap that is under 2 fingers.

You can do a self-check for DR by following these simple steps:

  1. Lie down on your back – it is best to get into this position by rolling from your side and over onto your back.

  2. Halfway between belly button and rib cage: Find a place in the middle between your belly button and your rib cage. Pick your head up a very small bit off the ground. With two fingers laid horizontally, feel the gap between the two sides of your rectus abdominal muscle. How wide is this gap? Do your fingers squish/sink in? Relax yo