Abdominal Separation - So What Are Some of the Causes?

Happy Summer mamas! I get asked this question a lot by my Stroller Strong mamas and personal training clients (both pregnant and postpartum) - you just wanna know what causes abdominal separation, and how to (perhaps) avoid it and improve it. Today, I’m talking to you about some potential causes of abdominal separation.

My key message is that diastasis recti (which is a separation of the abdominal muscles) doesn’t just occur during pregnancy. There are a number of other factors that cause the left and right halves of your six-pack muscles to move further apart from each other. If you want to know more about abdominal separation, the anatomy of your core, and how to check yourself for it, then do read my previous blog post here.

Did you know that men can even be affected by this condition?

So, here is a quick (and non-exhaustive) list of factors that may contribute to abdominal separation:

Incorrect lifting and loads - while exercising if you are perhaps unaware of how the abdominals support the back when lifting heavy weights, it’s possible to not just ‘do your back in’, but cause harm to your abdominals at the front too. (Incorrect use of the breath can also contribute to this - even during routine daily life.)

Genetics – but only in some cases. Did you know that a percentage of babies are born with a diastasis recti? (This is super rare.)

An imbalance of the abdominal muscles - perhaps caused by over-exercising the six-pack muscles, or incorrectly engaging these muscles when it should be your core much deeper underneath doing the work instead.

It can occur during pregnancy – generally when your bump starts to show, but it’s interesting to note that not all pregnant women suffer with this condition.

It can occur during birth itself – often as a result of the pushing phase in labour, particularly if you’re in an inclined position, with your legs are widened, and/or you weren’t shown how to use your abdominals effectively to push baby into the world.

It can occur during the course of a C-Section — a caesarean section isn’t the most delicate of operations and it can take a considerable amount of force to deliver a baby via this method.

And I never like to mention this, but weight gain may contribute — in both men and women.  It’s often termed a “beer gut” in men, for example. Of course, some weight gain during pregnancy is TOTALLY normal and please don’t be hard on yourself about this.

This list is by no means exhaustive and, of course, there are so many other biomechanics and lifestyle habits that contribute to the forces placed on someone’s body, resulting in loss of balance. These could include breathing, your posture and, of course, a modern lifestyle which discourages us from moving as we were designed to (as nomadic, hunter-gathers); and gives us social conditions that may actually contribute to poor alignment/body pressure. (‘smartphone neck’ or spanx — anyone?). I can talk about the body as a complex, interconnected collection of pressure systems at length - all affecting each other- but that is a topic for another post.

There are so many other factors at play. I work through these gradually with my ‘Diastasis Detective’ personal training clients. (I follow a holistic 7 step- BREATHE principle designed by Claire Mockridge, and clients work with me over a period of 6 months to address the symptoms of diastasis.) In most cases symptoms can be improved, and there are simple steps you can follow to aid rehabilitation.  For some people, it’s a matter of just a few months to fix it; for others, it may take a little longer. This healing, of course, will depend on what contributed to the separation in the first place, and how well the body responds to realignment techniques.

Any questions? Ask in class. Hugs, Sarah x

Sarah Pearce BSc is a Pregnancy and Postnatal Exercise specialist (Guild of Pregnancy and Postnatal Exercise Instructors) and a Your Pelvic Matters/Diastasis Detective teacher. The BREATHE Principle™ is a 7 Step Program for fixing Diastasis Recti. This is a NEW full-body approach to fixing abdominal separation. We’re going north of the navel and south of the pubis here! In fact, as a Diastasis Detective I'll be helping clients in… Solving the Mystery Of Fixing Abdominal Separation!

This post is designed to be informative and is no way intended to replace the professional guidance of your GP, OB, GYN or Midwife. If you have any concerns about your health seek medical advice soonest and it is imperative that you speak to your healthcare provider before returning to exercise.

Photo Credit: @krivitskiy Unsplash