What Exactly is Diastasis Recti?

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A woman with diastasis recti. You can usually find me at a party or any social setting, in a bedroom or off to the side with another mom lying on the floor, measuring to see if they have diastasis recti and answering a myriad of questions.

When people find out about what I do, they often come up to me quietly and ask me to check their stomachs. Questions that they are afraid to ask their doctor, all surrounding whether or not they have diastasis ensue because, honestly, not many women know where to turn. They ask tons of questions about what movements are safe and very often get all of their information about postpartum recovery and diastasis recti from a YouTube channel. 

  • ”Why didn’t my doctor check me?”
  • ”Why didn’t I hear about this before getting pregnant?”
  • ”Can I heal even though my baby is three years old?”
  • ”Will wearing a belly binder fix it?”
  • ”I saw a surgeon, and they said surgery is the only way to repair it. Is that true?”

So, let’s break it all down! What exactly is diastasis recti? 

Diastasis recti is the separation of the right and left halves of the abdominal wall. These halves meet together at the midline, called the linea alba, which is made up of mostly connective tissue. As a baby grows during pregnancy, the tissue stretches out, and the rectus abdominals move further apart, which is normal and happens to everyone.

During postpartum, the abdominals should naturally come back together. Sometimes, they stay separated, and after the initial postpartum phase, if they haven’t come back together, that is what we call diastasis recti.

There are four layers of the abdominal muscles: the rectus abdominis (what we think of as the six-pack), the external obliques, the internal obliques, and the transverse abdominis (the deepest layer). Each layer is covered in fascia, which connects all of them at the midline. Sometimes, this condition presents as ‘doming,’ ‘coning,’ or ‘pooching,’ but it can also present without a bulge, where the skin may sink into the gap. Diastasis can be wide, narrow, shallow or deep, it depends on each individual.

Will belly binders help me? 

Diastasis can affect all four layers of the abdominal wall. When you wear a belly binder, it does bring the most external layer, the rectus abdominis (six-pack muscle), closer together. Binders may help during the duration that one wears one, but the separation usually opens back up once you are done wearing it. It doesn’t hold long-term because the deeper three layers are usually also affected, and the binder isn’t getting to the root of the issue, which is learning how to manage intra-abdominal pressure. 

What can you do about it? 

If you’d like to start healing your diastasis, there are people who can help you! Pelvic floor physical therapists, pilates or yoga instructors who specialize in postnatal exercise, occupational and physical therapists, or postnatal trainers can help you improve your diastasis and gain core strength.

When finding someone, ask if they work with patients with diastasis and if they hold certification and training experience in either pre/postnatal work. Most therapists and trainers will re-educate you on how to manage pressure in your abdominals, give you some exercises to work on, and also look at your posture and daily movements (as that plays a part in healing). Stay away from influencers who tell you to suck in your belly all day long while dancing around in your underwear while wearing heels. I wish I were kidding. 

Is surgery the only way to fix it? 

Absolutely not. Women can close their diastasis all the time without surgery. Depending on the person, there is a broad spectrum of severity, but many clinicians specialize in diastasis repair. They can teach exercises and lifestyle changes to help you heal. The exceptions would be if you have an umbilical hernia, which a surgeon should always check to ensure it won’t cause further issues, or if the skin loses elasticity, you can still close your diastasis, but surgery would become an aesthetic choice. 

Is it ever too late to heal your diastasis recti?

No. It is never too late. You can always work to help it close. There is no time like the present! 

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lisaschoenholt
Lisa is a Brooklyn transplant residing in Croton on Hudson with her husband and two kids. She is the founder and owner of Brooklyn Embodied Pilates, a virtual Pilates studio with an in-person outpost in Croton on Hudson. Lisa and her teaching staff specialize in prenatal and postnatal pilates, diastasis recti repair, and c-section recovery. After the birth of her first son, she became a birth doula as she wanted to fully support birthing people throughout their pregnancy journey. She loves empowering women by educating them about anything and everything relating to motherhood. You can find her on IG at @brooklynembodied, trying to figure out how to make a reel. She loves anything spa or self-care related, hiking, coffee, and is new to writing but very excited to join Westchester County Mom!

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