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Diastasis Recti – Post Pregnancy and Exercise by Marissa Parry & Emma Goh

Diastasis recti is the separation of the rectus abdominis muscle into right and left halves.  This is caused by the stretching of the rectus abdominis by the growing uterus. To test for diastasis recti, lie face up with legs bent and feet on the floor. Lift the head and shoulders off the floor as if doing a crunch. Using the fingers, feel for a ridge or separation directly above the bellybutton. A separation less than two fingers is considered normal and will generally heal on its own without doing anything. A separation of more than two fingers wide will require some simple exercises to aid the healing process. If you have a separation of four fingers or more, please seek advice from your doctor.

Checking for Diastasis Recti

Below are some recommended exercises for diastasis recti. Before embarking on any exercise programme, make sure you have clearance from your doctor.

Heel Slides 

Lie on your back with your knees bent and both feet flat on the floor. Gently squeeze your abdominal muscles by pulling in your navel towards the floor. Start with your right leg and as you exhale slowly slide your foot away, aiming to straighten your leg. As you inhale, slide your foot back to starting. If your back starts to arch, stop and slide your foot back towards your bottom. As your lower abdominal muscles get stronger, you’ll be able to slide your foot further away. Repeat with the left leg. Do 10 repetitions each side and work up to 3 sets.

Engage your abdominal muscles and not your legs

Knee Lifts 

Lie on your back with your knees bent and both feet flat on the floor. Start with an exhale and lift your right leg up in to chair position (knee aligned with your hips), inhale as you lower your leg and repeat. Make sure you are engaging your abdominal muscles and not your legs. Your legs act as a weight to the exercise. Make sure your back does not lift off the floor and don’t squeeze your buttocks. Do 15 repetitions each side, and work up to 3 sets.

Lift leg up until your knee is aligned with your hips

Abdominal Crunch with Towel

Lie on your back with your knees bent and both feet flat on the floor. Take a long towel and wrap it around your torso with the ends in front. As you perform a crunch, pull the ends of the towel towards each other in front of your belly button to help urge the muscle back together. When performing this exercise, perform the crunch lightly, with more emphasis on the tightening of the towel, but still an overall gentle action. Do 10 repetitions and work up to 3 sets.

Do not exert yourself when performing the crunch

Tips

1. Avoid doing any regular abdominal exercises as this may cause your diastasis recti to worsen. If you are unsure what is considered regular abdominal exercises, seek advice from a professional.

2. You’ve heard the term “The sooner the better”, and this applies to starting exercises for diastasis recti. The sooner you start after giving birth, the easier it will be to close the separation. 3. Avoid lifting heavy objects. 4. Avoid exercises that stretch out your abdominals, such as yoga poses like upward facing dog, backbends, cow pose. 5. When you get out of bed roll on to your side and use your arms to push yourself up. Hence avoid any movements where you roll up and twist at the same time. 6. When you cough, sneeze or even laugh, gently place your hands on your belly area to hold your abdominals in place.