Diastasis Recti: 7 Tips to Help Your Abdominal Separation

Abdominal separation (Diastasis Recti) is a very common condition that occurs during pregnancy. The pressure of the growing baby causes so much strain on the abdominal muscles that they can no longer keep their shape and they separate. Diastasis recti are even more common in women over the age of 35, in multiple pregnancies and with multiple birth pregnancies (twins, triplets etc.). In more severe cases you may find your abdominal organs start to press out through the gap causing an abdominal herniation.

Your health practitioner will be able to check for diastasis recti however; you can also follow these simple steps to check for yourself. If there is any doubt however, do seek advice from a medical professional.

In most cases treatment isn’t generally required while you are still pregnant and the separation does tend to lessen within the first 8 weeks after childbirth. For some women however, the connective tissue remains stretched, in which case there are a number of things you can do to ensure you minimise the severity of an abdominal separation.

7 Tips To Help Your Diastasis Recti

  1. Always roll to your side when you get up from the floor or bed.
  2. Do not perform crunching exercises, sit-ups or push ups as they shorten the abdominal muscles and may widen the gap. In fact any posture that requires you to be on your hands and knees can place additional strain on your already compromised abdominal muscles. Even swimming and some yoga poses can make the separation worse, so it’s important to seek professional medical advice before engaging in any exercise program.
  3. No heavy lifting and when you are lifting, always focus on your posture. Ensure that you lift your Pelvic Floor first, draw in you lower abdominals and bend at the knees and hips to keep your back straight while lifting. Also remember to exhale with every effort.
  4. Avoid front loading baby carriers, as your abdominal muscles have to work hard to support the weight of the baby.
  5. Wearing compression shorts post delivery, regardless of the type of delivery you’ve had, can help to tighten your abdominal muscles and bridge the separation.
  6. Get a chiropractic assessment. Childbirth places stress on our pelvis and hips, which can alter how we use our muscles when lifting and attending to our babies. This often makes the separation worse and in some cases, can prevent the muscles from stitching back together.
  7. Get exercising. The following exercises are designed to help shrink the gap, strengthen the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles, and help avoid diastasis recti occurring in subsequent pregnancies.

Pelvic Floor Tilt 

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and soles of your feet on the floor.
  • Place your hands on either side of your abdomen.
  • Engage your abdominal muscles by drawing your belly button into your spine then as you lift your pelvic floor, rock the pelvis so you get a sensation of your natural curve flattening onto the ground. Then return to a neutral spine.
  • With each tilt, push your abdominal muscles back together. This will help to “stitch up” the separation.
  • Remember to keep the sacrum (the large triangular bone at the base of your spine) on the floor throughout the movement.
  • Repeat 10-12 times, 1-3 times per day.

Pelvic Floor Contractions (more advanced)

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and soles of your feet on the floor.
  • Place your hands on either side of your abdomen.
Step 1:
  • Try to lift, squeeze and hold tight your pelvic floor contraction for the count of 5-10, then release gently.
  • Repeat 10 times.
Step 2:
  • Lift your pelvic floor muscles up slowly this time, like an elevator, to the count of 5. Do this without stopping at any floors.
  • Hold and then lower the muscle to the count of 5.
  • Repeat 5-10 times and build to 3 sets.

If that felt good, you can move onto a more advanced version below.

Step 3:
  • Now lift the pelvic floor muscles up as high as you can and keep the contraction for a count of 20. If you find the muscle slipping, tighten it again as many times as necessary during the count.
  • Let it down in a slow, controlled manner.
  • Repeat 5-10 times and build to 3 sets.

Please ensure that you visit your health practitioner and have your 6-week postnatal check prior to starting your exercise program. Some women are okay to start exercising 4 weeks post birth but we still recommend that you speak with your health care provider first. If your birth has been a caesarean section, 8-12 weeks post birth is recommended before commencing a formal exercise program.