Heard the term Diastasis Recti banded around your friends, and think you might have it? You’re not alone.
It’s often hard to know if you have and what you can do about it. Personal Trainer and postnatal specialist Kimberley Cleminson answers your questions about the condition.
What exactly is Diastasis Recti?
In short, it’s a separation of your outer most abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis). These muscles support your back and internal organs, and during pregnancy they can separate as your uterus grows. If this happens, the connective tissue becomes weak and thin. It doesn’t heal naturally after childbirth, and you’re left with a gap.
Do I have it?
You can measure the space between the muscles above and below your belly button with your fingers as a guide. If you have a gap of 2 – 2 ½ fingers width when your rectus abdominis is contracted, this could be problematic. But – do get yourself checked by a postnatal specialist personal trainer, pilates instructor, GP or physio to test for it.
If you do have it, get guidance from an expert on the right core restoration exercises. Do these regularly and with a good technique, and you should find your gap decreases. You could find it shrinks to a safe distance in 3 – 9 months. Hallelujah!
What causes it?
It’s caused by continuous stretching of, force or pressure on the tissue that joins your outer abdominal muscles. Unfortunately, this means that common causes include lots of mum related activities. As well as pregnancy, it’s things like poor posture, an imbalanced core, wearing a front loaded baby sling, or being on your hands and knees. Hence it’s so common among postnatal women.
What problems does it cause?
Apart from being a huge confidence knock, separated muscles are weak muscles – so they’re not doing the job that a strong core would do. This leads to lower back pain (which is common), hernias, digestive issues and stress incontinence.
What exercises should I do to help?
If you have it, you need to strengthen your transverse abdominals (the lower abdominal muscles which act as a corset around your waist). Exercises for this are pelvic tilts, bent knee fall outs, heal slides, elevated leg raises and toe taps. To ensure good technique, have a session with a personal trainer, or head to your postnatal exercise class, like Pramercise.
What should I avoid doing?
While you’re trying to heal your diastasis, there are several exercises to avoid. Don’t do crunches, sit ups, twisting abdominal exercises or any where you are on your hands and knees (like planks, press ups, superman). Also avoid downward facing cardio (like mountain climbers and burpees), heavy lifting weight training and high impact cardio.
Can nutrition help?
Different factors affect the speed that your connective tissue repairs. The two main factors being age and circulation. Generally, connective tissue heals more quickly the younger you are, as you have a faster metabolism. This is key for repair.
To help boost this – drink lots of water as it aids circulation and carries nutrients around the body. Aim for 3 litres a day. You also need to eat collagen / connective tissue building foods – vitamin c is best, and can be found in lots of vegetables and fruit. Take a zinc supplement, as this will helps connective tissue production. It’s important that you stay away from toxic foods, which include sugars, alcohol, caffeine, trans fats.
For more on how to keep fit after having a baby, check out Kim’s top tips on how to get your pre-baby body back.