Diastasis recti abdominis (DRA) is a normal thinning of the connective tissue known as the linea alba as a response to increased intra abdominal pressure (IAP). Studies estimate that around 60% of first time mothers at 6 weeks postpartum will have a DRA. A study by Sperstad et al. in 2016, notes that the presence of DRA during pregnancy and after delivery is not necessarily a predictor for low back pain as women with and without DRA, reported similar incidence of lumbopelvic pain. This is an important message to note, as women are often told if they have diastasis recti it may increase their risk of developing low back or pelvic girdle pain, a claim that may not be supported by research.
The old approach to pregnancy and postpartum rehabilitation was to limit loading, positions, or exercises that were thought to contribute to increased IAP and “coning” along the midline of abdominals. Newer research suggests that the distance between the rectus abdominis is less important than depth of the gap. More focus is now being placed on the level of control one has while doing activities that increase IAP, and how well one is able to use a combination of abdominal activation, breathing, and pelvic floor muscle control to allow the abdomen to adapt to changes in pressure during both exercise and daily activities. See if you can notice the difference between an abdominal curl performed with and without transverse abdominis engagement: https://youtu.be/jZtq8K-llfA.
Even though we now realize that DRA is completely normal and potentially even adaptive quality during pregnancy, there are ways to exercise to reduce undue stress or excessive loading to the front wall and abdominal tissues.
Are you curious to know if you have diastasis recti? Check out this video for detailed instructions on DRA self assessment: https://youtu.be/JDzDqR3gC-Y. Please note that you may feel a small gap, as any gap 2 cm wide or smaller is considered normal after pregnancy. Please contact us or schedule an appointment to learn more about how MEND can assist you through your pregnancy and postpartum recovery.