A diastasis recti, more commonly known as abdominal separation is something becoming much more talked about which is great but many women have become terrified of it so lets clarify a few things.
Firstly it is important to know that the separation itself doesn’t hurt, nor will you actually feel it happening. Its general a progressive thing and happens over time as your bumps grows. There needs to be some degree of separation down the midline of your abdominals so your baby can fit in there but what we pay close attention to is the tension of the tissue underneath the rectus abdominus (the six pack muscles)
When you go to get your abdominals checked by a physio they will feel how wide the separation is but also how deep it goes, and whether you are able to connect with the deeper layers of the core.
There are general things you can do and avoid to help with your recovery, although be aware that every case if individual so your physio should be able to give specific instructions for you.
When it comes to physical recovery after pregnancy and birth, it is important not to cause too much intra abdominal pressure. This means that the only core work you should be doing initially is very very basic. This includes doing lots of breathing exercises, reconnecting your brain to your core, practicing drawing your pelvic floor in and up and learning to connect to both in different positions. There is no point only training your core and pelvic floor whilst lying down, although this is a good place to start.
The things to absolutely avoid when you are starting your post natal exercise journey are crunches, sit ups and anything lifting both legs at the same time like leg raises. These are far too intense on the abdominals for starters, and without connecting to your deep core muscles you may actually be making your separation worse because the base of support is not there. I know it’s the one thing you want to attack as its the body part that has changed the most, but honestly you need to be patient as it does take time but you can rebuild it stronger and better than ever if you do it properly.
The exercises you can start with include lying on your back with your feet flat on the floor close to your bum, hands just above your hip bones to check you are contracting the correct muscles slowly slide one leg down until it is straight and bring it up again trying not to lose tension. You can then progress to lifting one leg up to a single table top position, keeping that same tension, and then lowering it back down before doing the same thing on the other side. Throughout these exercises you must remember to exhale on exertion so there are lots of things to think about hence the reconnection of brain to core. It takes time so be patient with yourself and do a little every day.
As well as these exercises, the core doesn’t get a break when you are working on arms and legs. When doing a squat for example, if you keep your posture upright and strong with your shoulders back and down, you will be engaging your core so don’t forget to watch your form at all times.
So a few things to remember when you start exercising again with a diastasis …
- Keep up with your physio visits to monitor progress with your recovery.
- Avoid crunching, planks and double leg lifts unless otherwise advised by your physio
- Focus on your breathing while you move through your core work.
- EXHALE on the EXERTION
- Don’t forget to keep an eye on your posture, during exercise and all day long!