The term diastasis recti which is also known as abdominal separation refers to an increased distance between the abdominals. When you have a baby the pressure of the growing uterus and baby against the abdominal wall causes the connective tissue to stretch and weaken. In 100% of women this will have happened by the very end stages of pregnancy as a normal body function in order for the baby to have room to grow.
However after 8 weeks some women are left with a gap still of 2.5cm or above and then this is known as diastasis recti and is likely to require some additional support to close the distance.
Why is this important?
Abdominal separation will mean a weaker core unit so you may suffer from back/neck and hip pain. You may also have linked issues with pelvic floor (66% of women with diastasis recti also have some kind of pelvic floor dysfunction). The appearance of the abdominals will give a pooch like effect even once any body weight is lost. You will see doming of the abdominals when performing abdominal exercises where internal fat and organs are coming up through and against the weakened connective tissue
How to check if you have Diastasis Recti
Why is diastasis recti and pelvic floor linked?
So earlier i mentioned that 66% of women that retain a wider than "normal"distance in the abdominals also have some kind of pelvic floor dysfunction. The reason for this is that it is not only pregnancy that can cause diastasis recti but instead a poor management of internal abdominal pressure.
In fact not only do you not have to have been pregnant - you don't even have to be female. Quite often in bodybuilding men we see abdominal separation from the excessive loads onto the abdominals and tightened rectus abdominis (your 6 pack muscles that sit on te top of the core muscles)
Try this exercise:
On all 4's find your neutral spine
Rock the pelvis back and forth to ensure you are in neutral as if rolling a ball towards the back of the head and then off the bottom - you need to stop when you find the distance that is equal between the two tipping and tucking points.
Switch off the back of the legs and ensure shoulders are over the wrists and soft bend in the elbow
Then relax the pelvic floor and abdominals to the floor - fully relax - this might take a few attempts to fully relax to begin with if you are constantly pulling in. Then see how long you can keep the muscles completely relaxed for - building up to 60 seconds and then taking the weight off the wrists. Most commonly people manage from 5-10 seconds before their brain reflexively kicks in asking pelvic floor and abominals to be pulled back in.
If you find this exercise hard then the chances are you have a internal pressure management issue. This "sucking in" of the belly doesn't work the abdominals instead we are forcing pressure against the opening points of the core system. There are only 3 ways that this pressure can go - up (against the diaphragm causing herniation), out (against the abdominal wall causing diastasis recti) or down (against the pelvic floor causing dysfunction for example stress incontinence or prolapse)
Think of it like squeezing an orange - if you squeeze it hard enough the juice will leak from the weakest point/s. So commonly we can see multiple areas being weak points - particularly in pregnant/post natal women as those areas are already pressure
What exercises can you do to fix it?
In short - NONE
Not ALONE anyway. If I simply loaded exercises onto someone who already had a internal pressure management issue you would be always fighting against the 23.5 hours of undoing the good work they did within the 30 minutes of exercise I'd prescribed.
We need to take into account what's caused the excessive pressure in the first place and recognise that this isn't just to do with the abdominals - it's also to do with excessive pressure which can be down to emotional stress responses, breathing patterns, poor posture and alignment and also doing the wrong activities at the wrong time. We also need to fuel the body with nutrition and hydration to assist the healing of the connective tissues
During The Motherhood Movement programmes you'll learn how to release the things that are holding you back and then work on rebuilding strength to give a long lasting solution
Are you ever too late?
Most women regardless of their children's ages can improve using these programmes. It is never too late to try to begin even if your children are in their 30's.
It is worth mentioning that they are a select few where the connective tissue has lost it's elasticity (think an over stretched elastic band not returning quite to where it did) improvements may not come so easily and medical intervention may be required but this isn't the rule that applies to most people. More importantly if those people suffer a pressure management issue and don't solve this prior to surgery it can also return post surgery