How do I exercise with Diastasis Recti during Pregnancy?

If you are following our pregnancy programs, we take care of all the diastasis recti modifications and exercises for you!

diastasis recti during pregnancyDiastasis Recti occurs in 33-60% of pregnant women. You are more prone to this abdominal gap if you have a weaker abdominal wall, if you are carrying a large baby, if you are carrying more than one baby, if you have a narrow pelvis, if you have more than one child, if had them close together, or if you’re over 35 when you get pregnant. After that long list of predisposing factors, you can see why 33-60% of mamas have diastasis recti during the second half of pregnancy.  That said our bodies are made to bear children and are also resilient in getting back to their prior self.

Around 40% of mom still have this condition 6 months postpartum, and Moms Into Fitness will take care of you in our postnatal program.

This abdominal separation occurs when the tissue between the right and left recti is distanced more than 2 finger widths. You can’t change the pressure on your abdominal wall – you’re pregnant! But there are a few things you can change: posture, functional moving in daily activity, strength in the transverse abdominis and pelvic floor and not doing exercises that can make it worse.

Diastasis Recti (DR) is a very common condition that commonly occurs during pregnancy and can extend into the post-partum period and affect women and men in varying stages of life. There has been a recent upswing in research regarding the prevalence, risk factors and best treatment practice for DR. DR has a significant impact on the structural integrity of the abdominal wall and can lead to issues with back/pelvic pain, poor posture, incontinence, pain with intercourse and an overall decrease in satisfaction with body image.

Specific abdominal exercises, regardless of whether they are started before, during or after pregnancy have been shown to decrease the risk, severity and improve the overall reduction of DR. You can successfully retrain your abdominal muscles, address posture and prevent/correct compensatory strategies with our pregnancy program, specifically the Pregnancy Core Foundation workout.

Diastasis recti commonly occurs above the belly button, although it can occur below the belly button as well.  There is a self test in our Pregnancy Core Tutorial. *This test is not as accurate after the first trimester of pregnancy due to extra fluid, baby, uterus expanding upwards, etc.  The best way to know if you are working with this abdominal separation is by discussing it with your doctor!  Usually a "doming" occurs as you sit up or perform a plank position.

 

It's not just about your half hour of exercise, the other 23.5 hours a day matter the most!

Tip #1 Correct your posture

It sounds simple, but years of habit can take a bit to correct.  In fact some studies show it takes thousands of repetitions to correct bad habits.

From a standing position, stack your rib cage over your pelvis and keep your pelvis stacked neutrally over your feet.  Or as I like to call it “close your ribs”. Don’t stand with a swayback and open rib cage. This exacerbates the issue. The smallest of changes – closing the ribs and stacking the pelvis over the feet – takes pressure off the linea alba (where the recti separation occurs).

 

Tip #2 Stretching and strengthening

It kind of goes without saying, but if we take care of our body it will more than likely take care of us. Daily exercise is essential. And that doesn’t mean a solid 40 minute exercise routine everyday, it can mean moving 20 minutes a day.

 

Tip #3 Intermittently activate your TA 

Build your Transverse Abdominis (TA) activation into daily activities.   Anytime you bend, lift, twist, etc. think about tightening your TA.  This will reduce the strain on the linea alba where the separation occurs.  It will also reduce pelvic pain and back pain!

When rising from bed or the floor, roll over and do a side sit up (instead of sitting up straining the belly muscles).

If this is your second or third pregnancy, you are at risk of worsening your DR when you pick up your child.  Tighten the TA every time you go to pick up your child.  And note...when you hold your newborn, always tighten the TA when nursing and rocking to sleep:)

 

 

As your belly expands, it may seem counterintuitive to work on strengthening the muscles around the area that increases in size as a natural part of pregnancy.  But not working these muscles for 9 months leads to weak core muscles.

The transverse abdominis supports your baby during pregnancy. The fibers act just like a corset, pulling the core in from all angles (front and back). They are the most important of the muscle groups of the abdomen. The pelvic floor and TA keep your belly from dropping to your toes. The TA and PF, together with the uterus, work to push your baby out during delivery. Having those muscles be as strong and flexible as possible during labor while greatly ease your baby’s entry into the world and you’ll be grateful for that.

 

Tip #4 Exercises you shouldn't do

If you are following our prenatal workouts you will find your workouts are modified already!

There is no universal list of don’ts in the diastasis recti world. But because it is usually the the intra-abdominal pressure that causes the recti muscles to have a bigger gap between them, our direction is to stay away from applying extra intra-abdominal pressure.

Generally you should refrain from twisting and spinal flexion (crunches). We also recommend you don’t do too many planks, push ups, quadruped positions.  If you have the core body awareness and have been training your transverse abdominis for a while, you should be okay performing planks and pushups!

Any time you rise from the ground, make sure you perform the side sit-up as recommended in our Pregnancy Core Tutorial video.

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