I mentioned in a previous post that I had a condition called Diastasis Recti and today I wanted to talk to you all about it.
If you don’t know all the medical terms like me, Diastasis Recti is a condition where you have abdominal separation. That means the two right and left sides of the rectus spread apart at the body’s midline.
It’s a condition that mostly pregnant or post-partum women have. Here are the most at risk cases:
- Women expecting more than one baby or a very large baby
- Petite women
- Women with pronounced sway back
- Women with poor abdominal tone
- Genetics also play a big role. Sometimes it’s just the body’s way to deal with the pregnancy
What makes the separation happen is the force of the uterus pushing against the abdominal wall and since pregnancy hormones soften the connective tissue it is more likely to separate.
Having abdominal separation isn’t extremely dangerous, but you do need to do the exercises to close the gap if you don’t want real complications and need surgery. What it does for the short term is reduce the integrity and functional strenght of the abdominal wall, which can cause or aggravate lower back pain and pelvic instability. In my case, I’ve always had lower back pain so I don’t know if I can associate it with that, but I did have strange cramps in my stomach that dissapeared once I closed the gap.
To test if you have this condition, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Then place your fingers accross the midline with your palm facing your face and lift your head and shoulders slightly off the ground. If you can fit your fingers in the gap then there’s a separation and the more fingers you can fit, the more severe the separation. If you do have a separation, don’t do this test too often as it can prevent the gap from closing. If you’re less than six weeks post-partum it’s normal to have a small gap of two fingers or less, but if it’s more than that you ned to do abdominal splinting exercises instead of traditional crunches.
You need to know if you have this condition before resuming abdominal exercises after giving birth because certain exercises create shear forces that can pull the separation farther apart. You need to do specific post-partum exercises to close the gap and train your rectus to realign at the midline first.
In my case, if I remember right, my doctor noticed a gap around the two weeks post-partum mark but didn’t think it would be a problem. After about six or seven months I started trying to work out again by doing about ten crunches a day, which was enough to feel like I had worked my abdomen without hurting myself too much. But then I started having these weird cramps like the ones you feel when you’ve done way too many crunches, but I would get those even on days I hadn’t done crunches so next time I saw my doctor I talked to him about it.
He discovered my gap hadn’t closed and since it was now causing me pain he refered me to a physiotherapist. When I saw her, she checked the distance between the two halves of my abdomen and they were three fingers apart. She gave me a sheet with exercises to do every day and saw me every two weeks for a while. My gap started closing pretty quickly and my posture improved as well with those exercises. Now the gap is at about a finger and she said it’s normal.
I don’t know if every case of Diastasis Recti are like mine, but for me she said it might never close completely again, that I might always have a gap of about a finger, but it wasn’t dangerous at all as long as I kept doing my exercises. I would also need to keep doing those exercises if I ever get pregnant again, because having this condition could cause complications during a second pregnancy. It’s also certain that even though I do the exercises every day while pregnant that once I give birth there is going to be a gap again, but it’ll take even less time to close that time.
It’s a condition I will probably have to live with all my life and some days are harder than others. Sometimes I feel perfectly fine, but other days I feel like every move I make is done the wrong way and I can feel my abdomen separating again. I just have to be carefull how I force on things and make sure I do my exercises every day.