Today we talk about Diastasis Recti (DR), in English, separation of the abdominal muscles.
Some of you may recognize pro runner, Stephanie Bruce. Stephanie has been open about her struggle postpartum. She suffered from a Grade 4 episiotomy (a tear all the way through the anal sphincter to the rectum, not pleasant), incontinence (from both ends), prolapsing 7 weeks postpartum, and a significant DR to top it all off. I LOVE that she is using her voice as a professional athlete to shed light on this common reality postpartum. Despite having the best trainers and doctors at her side, knowing the in’s and outs of fitness and training, she was still challenged by the aftermath of having a (maybe two) baby.
You may be wondering; do I have a DR? Traditionally, a DR is measured by utilizing two fingers placed 2 cm above your belly button. You then raise your head and see if the gap between your abdominal muscles (called the linea alba) becomes smaller. If you have <2 finger widths of closure than you are considered within “normal” limits. Sounds easy enough right…. wrong! Why does everything have to be so dang complicated!
First, I want to point out that having a DR is extremely common among women who have had a baby. So common in fact, that researchers found that 100 percent of all women had a DR at 35 weeks pregnancy. In the study published in the Journal of Manual Therapy, 2015, the researchers found that out of the 100% of women with a DR, 53.6% had a DR at 12-14 weeks postpartum, and 39.3% had a DR at 6 months postpartum. So, if you are still ruminating on this information, I will make it easy on you and just say DR’s are completely normal during pregnancy, in fact you probably had one! Diastasis Recti is the natural occurring thinning of the linea alba that allows mom’s abdomens to make room for the little babes growing inside of them. The other important finding in this study is we can’t blame baby size, body mass index, abdominal circumference, and exercise during pregnancy as predictive factors as whether or not you had/have a DR.
Second line of order, it’s not just about the width of the DR. What current research suggests, is the width is only part of the story. The other important objective is the tension within the fascia of the linea alba also matters. This fascial density tells the story of how you are loading the “system”. Does the fascia feel taut and springy or does it feel like Jell-O?
The answer is a “piss off” answer which is MAYBE. You can definitely help heal it if nothing else. If you do have a DR, it is best to avoid exercises that will put more stress on the front of your abdominal wall. For example, sit-ups, planks, roll-outs ect. are NO BUENO. Not forever just not right now. Other questions to ask yourself? Why do you continue to have a DR, is it your bodies way of managing pressure? How is your core “system” working? What does your alignment look like? How is your fitness level? All are important questions to be asking and not everyone has the same solution.
If you would like more to the puzzle, check out my resources to gain further information on how to heal you.