Diastasis recti abdominis (DRA), also referred to as Diastasis Recti (DR) is one of the many physiological changes that take place during pregnancy. As the abdomen expands to accommodate the growing baby, the skin, muscles, and connective tissue all stretch as well. This includes the linea alba, or the connective tissue running down the center of our abdomen, which helps join the right and left halves of the rectus abdominis (commonly known as the 6-pack muscle) together. As the linea alba stretches, this increases the distance between the two sides of the rectus abdominis, creating the phenomenon of diastasis recti. And in case you missed it, our PT Advisor wrote a great article that goes deeper into understanding Diastasis Recti.
How can I Prevent Diastasis Recti from happening??
This is a very common question that gets at a very common misunderstanding about DR. Diastasis Recti is a normal process in pregnancy and should not be considered abnormal or pathological. Diastasis Recti will occur to everyone while they are pregnant by at least week 35! A 2018 study even found that the abdominal separation in pregnancy can range from 4.4cm to 8.6cm at weeks 35-41 of pregnancy, and the most-common definition of DR is anything greater than 2.0cm. And thank goodness that you do develop a DR while pregnant—otherwise your abdominal muscles might rip, or the baby wouldn’t be able to grow big enough to survive outside of the womb.
Does this mean there’s NOTHING I can do about diastasis recti while pregnant?
There is nothing you can do to STOP a DR from developing, but there is plenty that you can do to help improve your core strength and decrease the effects of a DR while pregnant! We have plenty of evidence to show that exercise during pregnancy can help reduce the size of a DR, prevent the development of urinary incontinence, decrease your risk of things like needing a C-section or having a preterm delivery, and improve the speed of your postpartum recovery.
It’s also a good idea to monitor your abdominal wall from time to time during exercise or daily activities, since excess pressure on the abdominal wall can exacerbate the effects of DR. If you notice any bulging or doming along the linea alba (right down the middle of your abdomen) or around your belly button, ease off on the activities that cause those symptoms. Good alignment and functional breathing will also go a long way in helping you control pressure in the abdomen more effectively. If you have questions about the safety of exercising in pregnancy, check out this link for patient FAQs from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and this link for the ACOG Committee Opinion on “Physical Activity and Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period.”
How can MommaStrong help?
This question has an easy answer—all of MommaStrong is safe for pregnancy unless noted otherwise! We have a whole program designed for pregnancy called Momma-to-Be that can take you from that positive pregnancy test up until the day you deliver. You will be working on your core and functional breathing patterns in every video, whether you know it or not! And then of course, we have plenty of content to help you recover postpartum, starting on postpartum day 1 with Hazy Days. After 8 weeks postpartum, you are also safe to complete our Core Camp program, which is a 30-day incubator specifically designed to help with DR and abdominal dysfunction.