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What is Diastasis Recti?

July is Diastasis Recti Awareness Month, so with that in mind, I thought I would break down what a diastasis recti is, what can cause it and some things that you can do to help heal.

What is a Diastasis Recti?

(Otherwise known as Diastasis Rectus Abdominus, Tummy Gap, Tummy Split, Abdominal Separation)

Diastasis recti is a partial or complete separation of the Rectus Abdominus (6-pack) muscles, along with a thinning and stretching of the connective tissue between them (Linea Alba).

As you can see on this diagram, you can see a lean figure at the top with the muscles in their normal position. The pink parts represent the muscles and the beige lines in between represent the connective tissue.

On the bottom row, you can see different variations of Diastasis Recti. This is what I meant when I said it's a partial or complete separation, it doesn't mean that it's broken. It just means that there is a thinning which can vary between positions and it can vary in width or depth.

The variation depends on things such as whether you have multiple babies in there, where the baby is sitting, or how big the baby is.

Every Full Term Pregnancy will Result in a Diastasis

As the baby grows, the muscle & connective tissues are all stretching to accommodate. This is perfectly normal and shouldn't be something to stress about. If you would like to learn ways of moving so you don't make it worse, then please get in touch and we can do some 1:1 coaching.

Pregnancy is just a temporary cause of diastasis recti. Many people will notice that it disappears after they have given birth. How long it takes to heal can depend on genetics, body composition & lifestyle factors.

Some more permanent and long term causes are things like having a lot of visceral fat (around organs) which includes beer bellies in men. This is because, like a growing baby, the fat is growing below your stomach muscles, is pushing against your abdominal wall and it's stretching those muscles to make room for the extra fat within your abdomen.

The main difference between the two types is that while the tissues are stretched and tight, they can still transfer load and messages. Once the baby has been born, the tension that's gone. So everything gets a bit like a deflated balloon, which is when you end up with back pain and the inability to transfer load through your core. The tissues aren't quite tight enough to get the message across.

What a Diastasis Recti is NOT.

Now that I've told you what a diastasis recti is, I want to tell you what it is not. It is not a hernia. As a reminder:

  • A diastasis recti is a thinning of linea Alba thinning and stretching. It's not a hole and it can be improved through exercise, lifestyle interventions.

  • If it is really stretched, you feel like you've tried everything and it's just not going back together. Then that is going surgery, and tummy tucks and things abdominoplasty that can be done.

  • A hernia is a tear in the muscle and a protrusion of the underlying tissue. This also needs repairing with surgery to stitch the hole closed.

How to Diagnose or Check a Diastasis?

If you are not sure that you have a diastasis recti, you can go via a few avenues to get it checked.

  • Book in to see a women's health physiotherapist (click here to view our New Zealand directory). This is the best person see as they are medically trained to check the tummy, the pelvic floor and how the rest of the body works with that.

  • A qualified postnatal personal trainer, like myself, who can check you and prescribe exercises that will strengthen your core safely & effectively. NOTE: I will refer to a women's health physio and like to have you checked over by a medical professional first.

  • You can follow along with this video and check yourself.

Always See a Postnatal Qualified Personal Trainer!

After you've checked, or had someone else check your diastasis. What can you do about it? Well as I mentioned before, your physio or your personal trainer will give you exercises to start the strengthening journey.

Please be careful about your choice of personal trainer. Just because they run mums and bubs classes, doesn't mean that they know how to train mums safely.

If you go to a personal trainer and they give you any of the following exercises, please find someone else to train with:

  • Sit Ups / Crunches

  • Planks

  • Bicycles

  • Russian Twists

  • Leg Lifts

Now as I mentioned earlier, exercise does help to reduce the look of a diastasis as it strengthens your core muscles. But traditional core exercises increase pressure within the abdominal cavity. If you have a weakened midline, you can end up pushing out through that weakened midline causes that weakened tissue to get weaker, which also causes the gap to get a bit bigger because you're forever pushing and pushing it up and pushing it out.

I'm not saying that you can never do those exercises again. It's just not suitable right now if you experience any of the following:

  • Doming or Bulging

  • Back Pain

  • Incontinence (wind, faeces or urine)

  • Or if you're holding your breath (increased pressure)

If you experience any of these, you need to regress the exercise.

How do you do that?

By seeing a qualified postnatal personal trainer.

Lifestyle Factors

Healing a diastasis recti is a lot more than just the right core exercises. Here is a list of a few things that will also affect your tummy, and in turn your diastasis recovery:

  • Bloating

  • Dehydration

  • Poor Diet

  • Food Intolerances

  • Stress

  • Poor Breathing

  • Tight Muscles & Scar Tissue

If you would like to know more about how to manage exercise & lifestyle strategies to heal your diastasis or manage your health in general, please head over to our Holistic Core Restore® Diastasis Healing page

If you enjoyed this blog and think that it could help others, please share far and wide.


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