What is Diastasis Recti Abdominus?
Diastasis Recti (or DRA) is the separation of the linea alba, the connective tissue that connects each of your rectus abdominis or “six-pack”.
This line extends from the bottom of the sternum to the top of the pubic symphysis; however, generally, you will see most separations above or below the belly button.
Unfortunately, once this connective tissue widens there is a multitude of issues that can develop, ranging from the purely cosmetic to the functionally defective.
While the cosmetic aspect may be more important to some than others, the functional aspect can impact your ability to lift your children pain-free or maintain urinary continence.
So...Who gets Diastasis Rectus Abdominus (DRA)?
When the abdominal wall expands with the ever-growing fetus and uterus, most women’s bodies are able to accommodate these changes.
But, if the body fails to accommodate appropriately, the linea alba can stretch, widen, or split.
Typically women experience the signs of DRA during the second or third trimester of pregnancy.
BUT... this does NOT only affect pregnant women…DRA can be present in infants who have not fully developed their abdominal wall, and also in men or women who repeatedly practice poor abdominal loading techniques or exercises.
You may have heard that small, fit women are at a greater risk. But, diastasis recti can be experienced in small, large, medium, and women of all sizes.
There seems to be a lot of misconceptions in regards to why the fascia tears and what can be done about it.
What can be done during pregnancy to avoid Diastasis Rectus Abdominus?
Sadly, there is not a one size fits all model. Just as there is no one size fits all diet, each person is unique, and each person has their own underlying issues that will contribute to the possible separation of the fascia.
Diastasis Recti is not a disorder. It is more of a symptom or a clue that something else is going on. There is a bigger, underlying issue that needs to be addressed.
That being said; if you are pregnant, planning on getting pregnant, or even just had a baby, it is highly advised that you seek out a Webster Certified Chiropractor and a skilled bodyworker.
If your pelvis and diaphragm are not functioning dynamically, then you WILL have issues. It may present as sciatic type pain, lower back pain, a breech presentation, rib pain, abdominal fascia separation, or a myriad of other symptoms.
Anything I can do during pregnancy?
Think about your core and how it functions…Have you ever used a Chinese Finger Puppet?
If you have ever played with one of those toys, you know that they are cylindrical and when you pull in a certain direction the whole contraption tightens up. Well, our core is not just our 6-pack or 4 pack or whatever you got. It’s the entire axial skeleton. The core is the front, back, and sides of you. The core is everything from your diaphragm to your internal and external obliques to your lats and of course your glutes. Your core muscles protect your organs and spine.Some fitness suggestions while pregnant…
- Avoid “Crunch Type” motion.
- Engage your entire core.
- Incorporate your breath - diaphragmatic breathing.
- Overhead squats and front squats with PVC or empty barbell.
- Strict pull-ups with or without bands.
- Strict presses with KBs, DBs, Barbell, or PVC.
- Side Planks and Regular planks (depending on severity) with movements like push-ups. Please avoid holding the regular plank for extended periods.
- Overhead walking lunges with a plate.
- Farmers Carries.
The list is endless...As you can see there are many safe options and things to think about during your pregnancy. There are a ton of other options that are not listed here. Another thing to think about is how you are recovering. Your training may be amazing, but if you are not recovering smart then your body will start to break down.Your muscles need to be pliable and your joints need to be freely moving. If there is a limitation somewhere, then your body will start to exhibit some interesting compensatory patterns.So...
- Visit a Webster Certified chiropractor regularly.
- Get soft tissue work done regularly.
- Eat nutrient-dense foods and take your fish oil and vitamin D.
- Stay hydrated.
- Swimming is a great active recovery exercise.
How about postpartum?
Start thinking about belly breathing.
“Sucking in your gut” will do nothing for you. Actually, it will only inhibit your diaphragm, which is a huge core stabilizer, and needed for proper functioning of the entire core complex.
Avoid the temptation to hide or suck in your postpartum belly. You will recover faster if you can master belly breathing.
During the 0-8 weeks postpartum phase, the body will start to return to its so-called normal state as the uterus shrinks. It is important to work towards improved abdominal loading and normalizing loading patterns after the baby is born.Think about all the times you will lift your baby. Establishing your “new normal” may be weird and frustrating. However, by addressing your biomechanical deficiencies now, you will be way better off in the long run.
If not..compensations, also known as poor movement patterns, could lead to what are called “energy leaks.” This is a forced (instead of smooth) transfer of load, taking more energy and causing decreased performance.
If you are healing a diastasis postpartum, know that leaving this untreated is not without further issues.DRA not only causes troubles for mom but can potentially affect future pregnancies, including positioning of baby and labor.
When the idea of forced transfer of load instead of smooth transfer of load is applied, think about it in terms of physically transferring the load (weight) of your baby from internal to external.
- Visit your chiropractor as soon as you feel comfortable.
- Get soft tissue work done when you feel ready.
- Start to walk. Take a few walks a day with your baby.
- And, implement the BIRTHFIT Functional Progressions
After the 8-week mark, women start to get a little anxious.
Please remember to be patient. Healing and recovery are different for every person. One woman may be healed in 9 weeks while another may take 15 months before she feels completely healed.You may also feel that your strength and endurance all return by 12-15 weeks, but you still have a “soft tummy”. This is NORMAL. Be patient with your body, train smart, continue to use the functional progressions, and recover smarter.
Women that overtrain in the beginning are usually the ones that never get the ‘abs’ they had before. Those that train smart and recover smarter will usually regain all function and even the ‘abs’ they had before.Remember, everyone is different.
Healing takes time.But...Postpartum lasts a lifetime, so we want you to focus on the movement milestones to meet as a mother and hold yourself accountable to this. Approach your immediate postpartum period with intention and purpose. Know your body and understand how it functions as one unit. You will heal in less than a year and you will function better than before.
Find a Webster Certified chiropractor and bodyworker you trust, so that they can help guide you on your recovery path.
Do not settle or own dysfunction because you are female, age X and/or have had children. You deserve a quality life and this is certainly going to help you achieve that.
*Inspired from a collaboration of blogs from BIRTHFIT HQ