Diastasis Recti – Postnatal Healing and Recovery

At your post-birth check-up did your GP press their fingers down the length of your abdomen and mention that you have any of the following; “a gap”, “separation”, “a diastasis”, “DRA”? If so, they may well have said it will heal on it’s own and is nothing to worry about. Want to know exactly what they were on about? Worried? (even if they said don’t!!), want to know if you can or should do anything about it?  Then read on……. 

So, what exactly is it? A quick anatomy lesson will help in understanding what’s going on. Imagine a long rubber band running down the midline of your abdomen, under your skin. If the size of your abdomen increases, for whatever reason, there will be more pressure outwards on the abdominal muscles and other tissues, potentially causing them damage. The rubber band is there to stretch in length and width to protectively accommodate the pressure. In reality, the elastic strip is made of collagen called the Linea alba. During pregnancy the stretching causes it to become wider and thinner. The top layer of abdominal muscles which lie to either side of it move slightly further apart. This is the gap or diastasis;

It’s completely normal and in most cases, unless the gap is exceptionally wide, should gradually close and strengthen naturally but….

The stretched, weakened tissues are fragile. The healing processes are vulnerable. Although healing depends partly on genetics and factors beyond our control, there are many ways in which we can support it and we can also do things which slow or even prevent full recovery altogether.

This is vital and in my view every post natal woman be informed of this. Why? Because the Linea Alba is used by the body to transfer the forces created during movement and lifting. It affects your balance, the function of all the abdominal muscles, core strength, even spinal and pelvic support and function. Many a postnatal ache, pain or issue can be traced back to the diastasis.

So what should and shouldn’t we be doing?  Well, firstly it’s not so much about the width of the gap that is the key issue so much as regaining strength and tension within the Linea Alba as this is necessary for it to function correctly.

Every woman is unique and her “healing prescription” should be unique to her body, her lifestyle, the daily demands placed upon her. Deeply, successfully treating a client with a  diastasis involves quite a bit of detective work on my part (and a willingness to do what needs to be done on hers!). There are certainly exercises which in most cases help, but these will be of no use if we do not consider the following,  all of which have a huge effect on healing:

Lifting techniques,

Posture,

Appropriate loading,

Core function,

Breathing technique,

Gut health,

Nutrition,

Stress management, 

Bowel function/constipation,

Appropriate movement patterns

Huge improvement can be had with understanding, know-how and care. It’s just a matter of being aware and taking positive steps to help the healing process along.