Diastasis Recti: Everything You Need To Know

What is it?

Diastasis Recti is the medical term for a separation of the abdominal muscles vertically down the centre of the stomach.  As the baby grows inside the womb during pregnancy the connective tissue (the linea alba) between the muscles stretches. This is more commonly known as the 'Tummy Gap'. 

How common is Diastasis Recti?

It is something that happens to every woman during the third trimester to make room for the growing baby. The risk for this can be increased if you have more than one pregnancy, or have multiples (twins, triplets, etc). Other risk factors are maternal age, c-section birth, and of course the weight and sizes of mother and baby, for instance, if a relatively small mother is having a rather big baby.

What does a Tummy Gap look like?

In the majority of cases, it is a fairly small gap, a lot of people don’t notice that they have it. It can look, and feel, like the gap between the second and third knuckle in your hand. However, sometimes the gap can be bigger and therefore more visible. The gap can look like a slight vertical dip in your stomach above and below the belly button. 

For more context, it is common and normal to have some separation between abdominal muscles (which you may refer to as your 'Tummy Gap'). In women that have not given birth, 1 cm (or one finger) separation at the level of the belly button and 0.5 cm above and below, is considered normal.

Does a Tummy Gap go away on its own?

Over the first 12 weeks postpartum, the gap can shrink and close itself. However, there are a lot of cases where some assistance may be needed to help close it.  We still see improvements easily up to 1-year post giving birth for the more challenging tummy gaps.  It is therefore worth getting the right guidance and not making hasty decisions until you have exhausted the conservative management route.

How do I know if I have Diastatis Recti?

You can always go and see a professional who can assess if this is an issue and how wide the gap is, but there is a method for doing this yourself. 

  • It can look, and feel, like the gap between your second and third knuckle in your hand. However, sometimes the gaps can be bigger and therefore more visible.
  • Lie down on the floor on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. 
  • Raise your shoulders up slightly so that you can look down at your stomach.  Sometimes you will see a bit of doming / popping up along the midline and belly button.
  • Now, use your fingers to measure the gap by sliding them along the edge of the muscle above and below the belly button. 
  • Use your fingers to measure how big the gap is.

How can I fix a Tummy Gap? 

In a lot of cases, the gap closes in the weeks after pregnancy, in most cases, it has closed by 12 weeks postpartum. If the gap is small, then you can work with our Mummy MOT practitioners to learn breathing exercises that can help to reform and repair these muscles. If the gap is wide, this may need to be corrected through a surgical procedure, but this is only in extreme cases / if the exercises don’t have the desired effect or in the case of a hernia.

Many women will do rigorous ab workouts in an attempt to right this issue, such as crunches, planks, etc. However, these intense exercises can make the problem worse. The best way to try and improve this is to focus on gentler breathing exercises.  It is also important to make sure you activate the abdominal muscles in the correct way so that you load the tissues appropriately.  This way you will make it better instead of worse.

Does Diastasis Recti need to be corrected?

Even though this gap can be so small that it is unnoticeable, it is important to try and regain muscle tension in that area. The abdominal muscles are vital for everyday movement and protection of your internal organs. If left untreated, it can cause persistent abdominal, back and pelvic pain, as well as pelvic floor dysfunction. 

How can the Mummy MOT help me with Diastasis Recti? 

You can book a Mummy MOT assessment with one of our practitioners where we can assess your tummy gap and see if this has had any effect on your pelvic floor muscles. From here, we can devise a detailed and specialised plan to help you achieve your goals and needs safely.

Any other advice or tips on the Tummy Gap? 

A good measure of progress when at home is to focus on what the gap feels like. The width of the gap getting smaller doesn’t necessarily show your progress. Look out for things like a soft or thin feeling in the gap, as this can be a sign that the issue is still persisting despite the exercises. Other things to look out for are a dip just above the belly button, or your belly button sticking out or doming when getting out of bed or doing abdominal workouts. 

Also, here’s a breathing exercise that you can try out yourself at home to give you an idea of the exercises that could be recommended to help this issue. This is called Lateral chest and Diaphragm breathing. 

  • Place your hands onto your ribcage and relax your shoulders. 
  • Then, take a deep breath in and allow your ribs to expand into your hands whilst your tummy rises. 
  • Then slowly breathe out and allow your ribcage to soften and your tummy to relax again, and repeat this process five times. 

This can be done daily to improve the tension in the gap. 

For more information on Diastasis Recti:

About the condition – https://www.themummymot.com/diastasis-recti/

To book a Mummy MOT – https://www.themummymot.com/for-mums/certified-mummy-mot-practitioners/

Diastasis recti abdominis during pregnancy and 12 months after childbirth: prevalence, risk factors and report of lumbopelvic pain – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27324871/