This is something we often get emailed about, and, from the questions we’ve had asked, it sounds like unfortunately information surrounding diastasis recti just isn’t readily available from your GP or health visitor.
In brief, diastasis recti is a hernia. It is a split of the connective tissue that runs down the centre of your abdominals, usually caused by increased abdominal pressure (i.e. from pregnancy or increased weight gain in the abdominal region). When your abdominals are contracted, you may see the split, you may see a bulge as your intestine pushes through this split, or you may have felt the gap with your fingers.
If it causes you pain, you should see your GP immediately. However, generally diastasis recti is not painful, and will not cause you any harm.
If you wish to restore normal, efficient abdominal function, and want to reduce the risk of the hernia progressing (which is when it may become painful and require further intervention), there are some simple exercises you can do to improve this. These will generally be more effective if you’ve been assessed, and been through the technique with a physiotherapist for personal feedback on technique, and to ensure you are doing exercises specifically for your body.
We have uploaded a series of short videos onto YouTube covering a few things you can try – click here to try it. These exercises are also good for anyone to try post pregnancy to help with reactivation and improving strength of the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles, but as mentioned before, we highly recommend booking a session with a physiotherapist to ensure you are completing the correct exercises for your body, with the correct technique.
Also please remember, your body has been through a lot with pregnancy and giving birth, plus now you have a baby to look after as well! So remember, be kind to your body, give it time to recover from pregnancy, and if you are going to start doing some exercises, do them in the time that works for you, around caring for your baby. Your baby is your priority, but don’t forget about yourself as well.
And, as a finishing note, if you have diastasis recti and you wish to improve it, please do NOT do sit ups! This causes too much overload of the abdominals, so they will continue to work through the shortest plane, and so this will cause the split to remain or possibly worsen. This is why gentle activation exercises are advised for the best outcome, rather than exercises that cause bracing of the abdominals.
If you have any further questions about diastasis recti, pilates, or returning to exercise after pregnancy, please email us at [email protected]. The YouTube videos can be found on our channel ‘Animated Physio’, or by clicking here.