Mind the Gap…..
What is it? A separation at the midline (Linea Alba) of the ‘Rectus Abdominals’ (those six pack muscles that lie closest to the surface)
Why does it happen? It generally occurs in Pregnancy and it is the body’s natural way of allowing the baby to grow and belly to expand. Ligament laxity increases during pregnancy which allows the abdominals to move apart at the linea alba. The separation can be affected by many factors such as multiple babies (Twins, Triplets), bigger babies, multiple pregnancies, Constantly straining the midline by building intra-abdominal pressure (think constipation, Heavy Lifting – and when I say heavy, remember each person is different, I’m not saying one rule fits all as some people come into pregnancy stronger than others, however, if you feel like you are holding your breath or bearing down then you are almost definitely over-straining – stop). It isn’t solely reserved for women…. DR can bee seen in Children due to the lack of strength in the linea alba, it usually resolves as the child grows and gets stronger. Men can also suffer with a DR due to an excess of weight gain around the tummy, especially in the belly region (the typical ‘beer belly’ look), due to the forwards stretching of the tummy once again.
Does it happen to EVERY pregnant woman? Generally speaking YES, to some extent it does! It is NATURAL so don’t fear it, just keep an eye on it and know what movements and exercises put the pressure on the midline to separate further, and avoid these if you start to notice a ‘doming’ or ‘coning’ at your midline. Some DR can be larger than others. Remember a small separation at the abdominal midline is natural to allow baby to grow (our body is super clever and usually comes back afterwards with some TLC). It is only classed as a DIASTASIS RECTI when the gap is greater than 2cm (or 2 fingers). And REMEMBER, rarely do we know how far apart our Rectus Abdominals were PRIOR to getting pregnant, everyone is different, so we may have already had a 1-2cm ‘gap’.
How do I check it? Well if you cant get someone to do it for you – me or a health care professional/physio etc, then there is a video on my YouTube Channel to show you the easiest way to check. But remember you are looking not just for the distance the abdominals are APART, but also the DENSITY of the muscle tone under your fingers and the DEPTH of the hollow if there is a gap.
Will I ever be able to reduce my DR? YES and at ANY STAGE postnatally as the body is constantly changing and will respond to new ways of moving, exercising, breathing if you practise regularly. Please don’t worry (remember worry creates higher levels of stress hormone – Cortisol – in the body which will only hinder any healing), TWO THIRDS of all women with abdominal separation at the time they give birth will repair naturally without any intervention within the first few weeks postpartum. Abdominal Separation on its own shouldn’t be alarming as it depends on how ‘functional’ the abs are regardless of any ‘gaps’. It is only if you are experiencing pain in places like your back, hips, abs that it becomes a problem.
What exercises do I need to do to reduce my DR ? This totally depends on the individual, but there are many areas we can work on that will only go to improving the DR! BREATHING is always my first GO TO. If you are not breathing properly then your DR will remain a DR regardless of how many pelvic tilts, leg slides, knee drops, shoulder bridges you do. Check now and see where your breath goes when you breathe in… Does it stop at the naval? (are you a shallow breather?) or can you breathe deeply and fully into your tummy, back and sides of your ribs? The latter is what we want to encourage! I would also move onto posture checking and alignment – again check yours right now whether you are sat or stood…. are you evenly distributing your weight like you should? or Shifting your weight through one hip? Crossing your legs? Thrusting your ribs forwards or over arching your lower back? Is your head placement forward? So many areas of the body to align before we can start to work on a DR – sometimes simply breathing better and making a couple of postural changes can close a DR without the need for any further exercises!!!
What to do next? Call me, email me, message me via social media, look at my website booking page for the next Pre and Postnatal Course dates. Don’t panic! As you can probably tell I could go on for pages/hours about the subject of DR, Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, anything Pregnancy and Postnatal related – It is my specialist area and something I am passionate about, having had two babies myself with VERY different births(C-Section & V-BAC). I also had a 3-4 finger Diastasis with after my second baby and have managed to bring this back to 1-2 fingers, but with very shallow depth and good density and strength of the deeper core muscles. I have trained in pre and postnatal exercise several times over the past 12-16 years as there is so much to know and exercises/advice/guidance/knowledge are ever-changing! My most recent studies were in 2021 when I undertook the Core Exercise Solutions course to become a pre and postnatal correctional exercise specialist. This was an incredibly in-depth course focusing on DR, Pelvic floor dysfunction, SPD, Pelvic Pain, Postural changes, Breathing work and so much more, It’s been invaluable. My quest to help and empower women throughout pregnancy and beyond will continue as I search for more seminars, webinars, courses and read more journals throughout 2022. I always say that the human body never ceases to amaze me and this is never more true than with a female body growing, delivering and nurturing a baby – WOW – we rock!