All pregnant women will develop a degree of abdominal separation (Diastasis Recti) during their third trimester of pregnancy. It is a normal physiological change that happens to the tummy wall which makes room for the growth of the baby.
WHAT SHOULD THE GAP BE LIKE?
A 'normal tummy gap' is roughly the distance between your second and third knuckle and should feel like the space in between.
In pregnancy, the rectus abdominus muscle (commonly known as the '6-pack' muscle) will stretch and move towards either side of the abdominal wall. The linea alba which runs down the centre of the abdominal wall will also stretch and widen. This is referred to as 'the gap'. For many women, this natural separation will close during the first 6-8 weeks postpartum. For others, the separation will remain causing a range of symptoms including lower back pain and pelvic floor muscle problems.
FOCUS ON TENSION NOT WIDTH
Many women focus on the 'width of their gap', but it is more important to consider what it feels like between the gap. Is it firm and taut or thin and squishy? Do you notice a dip either above or below your tummy button? Does your tummy button stick out or dome when you get out of bed or when you do traditional abdominal 'crunches'? All of these could be signs of a persistent tummy gap which can cause both short and long-term problems if not addressed.
We all need a strong abdominals in order to move and exercise well, however not all exercise is created equal. Many women will overwork their tummy muscles in an effort to 'close the gap' which can make symptoms worse and delay healing even more. It is important to discuss your symptoms with a specialist postnatal physiotherapist. They can help assess your condition and plan your safe return to exercise.
WHERE CAN I GET HELP?
Check out the directory of certified Mummy MOT® practitioners in your area and book in your consultation today Your Mummy MOT® specialist will get you started on the road to recovery and give you the confidence you need to get moving again.
5 top tips for diastasis recti rehabilitation:
- Don't focus on the 'width of the gap'. DO focus on function. Get yourself moving in the right way and build your strength from the inside out.
- Don't hold your breath or suck your stomach in. DO focus on breathing. Allowing your abdominal muscles to contract and relax the way they were designed to.
- Don't forget about your pelvic floor muscles. DO focus on correctly engaging your pelvic floor muscles during exercise. A little goes a long way.
- Don't lift with your back. DO hinge forward at the hips and lift with your legs. Learn how to use the squat to your advantage and wake up those thighs and bottoms. Your tummy will thank you for it.
- Don't ignore your symptoms. DO book in for your Mummy MOT today and seek the specialist advice you need to get back on track.
This blog post follows on from our earlier post on diastasis, which also includes tips on exercises which can be done safely. You can find that post here.
Cambridge Health Clinic
Kathryn Levy is a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) and health coach who offers an integrative approach to health and wellness with specialisations in women and men's pelvic health physiotherapy, complex pain management, biomechanics and classical Pilates.