Over 32% of women are still experiencing symptoms of diastasis recti abdominus (split abdominal muscles) a year post-partum according to a recent study in the British Medical Journal.
Diastasis recti abdominus (DRA) occurs when the connective tissue between the two sides of your rectus abdominus muscle (the "six pack" muscle) separate, causing an unsightly protrusion (or mommy pooch!) along your abdomen. It's normal for you to have DRA during your pregnancy as your body stretches to accomodate your baby, but it should be gradually close post-partum. By 6 months after baby is born, your DRA should be less than 2 fingers wide.
Many OB or midwives do not assess for DRA at your post-partum checkup or you may be completely unaware you still have this problem and think you just need to lose weight. Here's a video on how to check for DRA at home and to you can see how you measure.
A mild DRA is 2-3 fingers wide. Moderate is 3-4 fingers wide and severe cases are greater than 4 fingers wide. Some women have DRA that is less than 2 fingers wide that can cause them symptoms. I always recommend to try to close your DRA as far as possible for the best long-term results.
When the DRA stays open, it makes it nearly impossible to strengthen your core, leading to back pain, muscle aches, difficulty breathing and even issues with your pelvic floor. 66% of women with DRA also experience urinary leakage or pelvic organ prolapse.
Think of your core as a cylinder -- comprised of your diaphragm at the top, abdominals in front, spine in back and pelvic floor muscles at the bottom. Each muscle group must play it's part to keep the structure mechanically sound. In DRA, the front "wall" of your core is compromised. This will cause compensation by one or more of the other muscles, increasing strain on your body.
The good news is that closing your DRA using deep core exercises, taught by a trained pelvic floor therapist, is effective for most mild to moderate cases. A recent research study showed that this type of exercise therapy for DRA helps close the gap and improves quality of life for post-partum moms within just 8 weeks. Even with severe cases, I would suggest a trial of deep core exercises with a trained pelvic floor therapist before consulting with the surgeon.
If you are a post-partum mom in the Bloomingdale IL area and have questions about DRA, please do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected]
I am one of a few trained health care professionals in this area with a proven track record of closing diastasis recti abdominus. It is so exciting to help empower women to heal their bodies and get their active lifestyle back!
Permission to use copyright image from Pelvic Guru, LLC