Diastasis Recti (DRA) is the stretching of the linea alba or the connective tissue where the abdominal muscles attach. The linea alba stretches as the pregnancy progresses and causes the abdominals to separate further from the midline. Although it is most commonly seen in pregnant or postpartum women, it can also happen to men, women who have never been pregnant, or even babies. Diastasis is caused by increased intraabdominal pressure usually via increased weight gain, improper lifting, a weakened abdominal wall, and pregnancy.
Diastasis Recti in pregnancy is an extremely common and normal occurrence (in my opinion, all women will have some degree of DRA during pregnancy), especially towards the end of the third trimester. Your body is simply stretching to make space for the growing baby which is what we need it to do!
How Do You Know If You Have DRA While Pregnant?
You may have to look carefully, but some typical signs are:
1. Your belly button goes from being an innie to an outie
2. Your belly button seems to have gotten wider (and holding less tension)
3. In the right lighting, you may notice a separation in your abdominal wall. It may be faint but you will see the separation.
4. You may have a sensitive belly button
5. Symptoms such as low back pain, incontinence, and hip pain can often be caused by DRA
Still unsure? Do this quick test to self-check for DRA while pregnant:
1. Sit back with your hands supporting you
2. Lean back as if you are going to lay down
3. Any signs of coning or belly bulge indicate a positive test for DRA
What Can I Do To Prevent Diastasis Recti When Pregnant?
TBH, not much. As I explained earlier in the post, it is inevitable for mama's in their third trimester. BUT what you can do is prevent the severity of the separation. Pay attention to your posture, how you train and exercise, avoiding aggravating movements (such as jackknifing out of bed! Instead try to log roll to your side, drop your legs off the edge of the bed while simultaneously pushing up with your hand), keep your weight gain in check, practice pregnancy-safe core and pelvic floor strengthening exercises.
What does DRA look like postpartum?
DRA is often disguised as a bulging tummy, a gully down your midsection when lying on your back, and coning when in a sit up or plank position. It's considered normal to have a separation less than or equal to two finger widths. However, another aspect not talked about as often is the depth of the separation. What does the bottom feel like? Is it soft and squishy or does it feel firm? To check to see how to do a self-check, click here.
When should I check for DRA?
In my experience and talks with other moms, not many OBGYN's or midwives even bother to check for DRA postpartum (let alone pregnancy). And if they do check its usually at the 6-week routine follow up. However, the abdominals are still healing at this time and often will get a positive check and leave a mother worried and in fear about her splitting abs. I prefer to check at 10-weeks postpartum as this gives you a better sense of how a mom has healed.
Yikes, I have DRA. How do I close the gap?
For starters, do a self-assessment and see if you are doing anything in your daily or workout routines that could be hindering your healing. Are you performing planks or high-level exercises? What does your posture look like? Do you know how to properly breathe and engage the correct muscles? A physical therapist who specializes in women's health can help you figure out what to look for and set you and the right exercise and rehab plan to bring the gap closer together. Remember, under two fingers is normal!