Diastasis Recti is the abdominal separation that occurs in pregnancy as the abdominal wall expands to make room for your growing baby.
Your abdomen has connective tissue that runs along the midline, from your sternum to pubic bone, called the linea alba. Did you notice a dark line appearing on your belly during pregnancy? The linea alba softens during pregnancy, which allows the rectus abdominus muscles (or six pack muscles) to move apart, as show in the diagram below.
100% of pregnant women will have diastasis on their due date. Diastasis will be prevalent for 60% of women 6 weeks postpartum, 39% of women 6 months postpartum and 32% a year postpartum. Highlighting that there is natural healing that does occur, we should be careful to not disrupt this process but aide it.
The goal during pregnancy is to minimize the severity of separation by avoiding certain movements, ie a plank. For instance, after birth we recommend continuing to roll on to your side to sit up until your core is activating correctly. Pre & postpartum we recommend learning how to engage your core and pelvic floor with breathing to perform exercises with better efficiency to reach your goals.
Separation is commonly discussed in terms of finger widths, for instance you may have heard women discuss a two or three fingers gap. However, it is important to note that diastasis recti is not just about the width of the gap but more importantly its depth, how far down the gap can you push. If your connective tissue, the gap in the abdominal wall, is firm and can gain good tension when you engage your core muscles correctly during exercise, then you are likely to be fine. If your deep core muscles are weaker, the connective tissue will feel soft, squishy and you’ll be able to press down easily into your belly.