Abdominal Separation: The Top Ten Questions.....
Yes, I’m talking about abdominal separation (or diastasis recti as it is medically referred to) again - either that or the pelvic floor!!!!! Sorry - I’m nothing if not reliable (although hopefully not predictable….) or perhaps passionate about postnatal recovery. So today in this blog post I am sharing my top ten FAQ’s about abdominal separation. Here we go….
WHAT’S CONSIDERED A DIASTASIS?
When you, your GP, or someone like me (who is Ante/Postnatal trained) checks your abdominals for separation, we’re looking for gaps in between the six-pack muscles, above and/or below the belly button. If the gap is wider than 2 fingers, then it’s considered a diastasis, or abdominal separation.
DOES EVERY PREGNANT WOMAN SUFFER WITH DIASTASIS?
No, abdominal separation doesn’t occur in all pregnancies. There are a number of reasons why the abdominals do and don’t separate, with alignment playing a key role in this equation.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I THINK I HAVE AN ABDOMINAL SEPARATION?
If you’re concerned about the separation in your abdominals, I’d suggest you ask firstly someone like me who is ante/postnatal trained to test you. Or you could make an appointment with your GP who will perform the “Rec-Check.” If the separation in your abdominals is considered severe, or if you’re suffering with abdominal, pelvic and/or back pain as a result, then your medical practitioner may refer you to a Physiotherapist for a more intensive rehabilitation program; or you can see me and I’ll advise on the best sway forward. (As an aside, I STRONGLY recommend that, irrespective of delivery type, all women should see a Pelvic Health Physio after birth for a pelvic health checkup - even if you have no concerns. Did you know that most insurance will over this check up?)
IS IT IMPORTANT TO FIX DIASTASIS?
If your abdominals don’t completely realign after birth - and apart from the diastasis itself and the associated slight bulge not looking particularly flattering - it’s important to touch on the role that your abdominal muscles play in the stability of your pelvis and your spine. You may be more prone to back problems if your diastasis remains quite large, so it’s best to get it properly assessed and treated. In some severe cases, you may even get a herniation and/or develop pelvic floor dysfunction which aren’t easy conditions to repair or manage.
WHAT EXERCISE SHOULD/SHOULDN’T I DO?
A Postnatal-specific exercise program is the best form of exercise for you to perform to help fix an abdominal separation. I’d suggest seeking the guidance from a trained postnatal exercise specialist like myself, or a Women’s Health Physiotherapist, as these individuals are educated in what to do and what to avoid when it comes to fixing abdominal separation. Sit ups most definitely should be avoided.
WILL THE GAP GET WORSE IF I HAVE MORE CHILDREN?
If your alignment is way off and you have a lot of poor postural traits, then it’s possible that the more pregnancies you have, the wider the gap in your abdominals will remain. If your diastasis recti wasn’t tested after your first baby, then after subsequent pregnancies, you’re more likely to have a slightly wider gap each time you get pregnant.
ARE THERE THINGS I CAN DO DAY-TO-DAY TO AVOID ABDOMINAL SEPARATION GETTING WORSE?
Definitely. Avoiding forward-flexion movements e.g. when getting out of bed; don’t sit up from lying, instead moving to the side with your legs narrow and push yourself out of bed from the side. And, similarly, moving from a seated to a back-lying position by rolling backwards, also puts direct pressure on the very muscles which have been affected. Instead, approach things from the side to avoid putting stress on the six-pack muscles. (Check out my blog for a whole post devoted to this)
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY ABDOMINALS HAVE MENDED OR NOT?
There’s a simple test you can perform on yourself called the ‘Rec Check’. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself, or ask a medical professional to do this, or ask me next time you’re in class. The test involves placing your fingers above and then below your belly button whilst doing a small sit-up. If you can feel any bulging or separation between your fingers above and/or below your belly button, then chances are, you have an abdominal separation.
SHOULD I ASK MY GP TO TEST FOR ABDOMINAL SEPARATION?
Most definitely, yes. When you have your 6-week or 10-week check-up with your Doctor, it’s important to go to this appointment armed with a series of questions, one of which is “Can you test my abdominals for me?”.
HOW LONG CAN IT TAKE TO RE-ALIGN?
It can take several months for abdominals to re-align. Sometimes, the separation can remain for years after birth, unknowingly. If you’ve been referred on to a Women’s Health Physiotherapist, or you’re performing a postnatal-specific program from someone like myself who’s Ante/Postnatal-trained, then you may see results within a few months, if you continue to perform the exercises on a daily basis.
If you’d like me to test your abdominal separation for you, just ask me next time in class. I’m more than happy to do so to help ease your mind.
The test itself takes less than 30 second to perform - I don’t need to touch your skin, I can do this over your t-shirt. It’s really not invasive at all and needn’t be.
If you want to know more about Abdominal Separation check out my other recent blog posts which will talk you through how to conduct a ‘Rec Check’ yourself and if you want to learn the one movement you’re likely doing that is making abdominal separation worse, read more here.
Hugs, Sarah x
Sarah is a Pregnancy and Postnatal Fitness Specialist, Guild of Pregnancy and Postnatal Exercise Instructors member, Diastasis Detective and Your Pelvic Matters teacher. Want to know more or ask some questions? Join Sarah this Friday May 31 at Enchanted Woods Play Cafe for a FREE talk on Postnatal Fitness: ‘At the Core of It: What new moms need to know about returning to exercise’. This is a Wellness Weekend event and your attendance will earn you a ballot for the awesome prize package! (Visit my Facebook page events for more details of my upcoming pregnancy and postnatal programs at Enchanted Woods Play Cafe this summer)
This blog is designed to be informative and is no way intended to replace the professional guidance of your health provider. If you have any concerns about your health seek medical advice soonest and it is imperative that you speak to your healthcare provider before beginning exercise during pregnancy or returning to exercise post birth.
With continued thanks to Claire Mockridge for her fabulous courses.