Diastasis Recti: What is it, and how can it be prevented?

by Joann Nunez, PT

Many changes occur to a woman’s body during pregnancy. Some are permanent while others are treatable with the right help and assistance. As a woman’s belly grows it stretches, so it not surprising that there can be an issue with the abdominal muscles. One common occurrence in pregnancy is a condition called “diastasis recti.”

What is Diastasis Recti?

This is a separation of the rectus abdominus (“6 pack”) muscle. This separation occurs as a result of the uterus growing and pushing against the wall of the abdomen. In addition, pregnancy hormones cause ligaments and soft tissue to become more lax, or less resistance to stretch or pressure. This most commonly occurs in the last half of the pregnancy, as the baby is gaining weight much more rapidly. This condition occurs in about 30% of all pregnancies. Some women will heal, while others may still experience a gap that is too wide after giving birth. If the gap becomes more than 2-2.5 finger widths wide, this becomes problematic as you lose core stability and increase your risk for other injuries, such as back pain. More importantly, pelvic instability occurs because the abdominal wall becomes too weak to be supportive.

How can it be prevented?

It is important to maintain a strong core throughout your pregnancy. Under the guidance of your obstetrician and physical therapist, exercises can be designed to make sure you continue and maintain the strength of your abdominals and pelvic floor to ensure a safe and quick recovery after delivery. Some of the most common exercises are: pelvic tilts (an exercise in which you tighten your abdominals in towards your spine), Kegels, and strengthening of the transverse abdominus (a small muscle that lies in your pelvic floor); among many others. It is very important to follow the guidelines of your doctors, because as you progress into your pregnancy, lying on your back becomes unsafe. A physical therapist can help you adjust and customize those exercises to your specific needs and ensure you are performing effective and safe exercises for your core.

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