Wondering how to correct diastasis recti? There are many natural options available. I have corrected my own diastasis recti with simple exercises that anyone can do. Before diving into that, let's be clear that we all are on the same page in terms of what diastasis recti is.
The 2 sides of the abdominal wall connect in the middle on a line of fascia called the linea alba. Fascia is a thin casing of connective tissue that surrounds and holds every organ, blood vessel, bone, nerve fiber and muscle in place in our body.
This line appears between everyone's "six pack" muscles. It's normal to have some space between there. However, when the tissue in the midline thins out beyond a certain point it's known as diastasis recti. Pregnancy is the most common reason a person develops a diastasis, however athletes and even people who have never been pregnant can develop one. Both males and females can develop a diastasis recti.
The wrong types of exercises and even daily movement patterns can make a diastasis worse, which is why it's important to identify when one is present and take action.
A diastasis is measured by checking the width and depth between the two sides of the "six back" muscle when barely lifting the head. Anything greater than 2 and a half finger widths is considered a diastasis. You may have one above, at or below the belly button - or even across all those spots. We also want the whole area to feel on the firm side in terms of muscle - almost like a trampoline versus something you can sink into. Bodyfat isn't what we are talking about - we are trying to assess the muscle tissue when making this evaluation. A Certified Pregnancy and Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist is able to help you determine if you have a diastasis if you are not sure. A doctor or PT will also be able to check for one. It's always going to be a bit of an estimate when using fingers. However, an ultrasound can be used to be sure on whether or not a diastasis is present.1
Everyone has a diastasis at their due date, and by some estimates 39% of women have one at six months postpartum.2 This means that we can't necessarily assume everyone will "bounce" back super quickly after giving birth! Furthermore, a diastasis can become more and more of a problem with each subsequent birth because the tissues will stretch faster the more times they have already been stretched out. I really wish learning how to correct diastasis recti was part of every woman's postpartum education - it's that important.
So often, if a women is "fine" after one child she is then shocked that by her second or third things are a lot different in her abs. For other women, the first pregnancy has already led to a diastasis that didn't resolve. Everyone is different, and it's all normal. The nice thing is, once you know how to correct diastasis recti, the same principles can be utilized to keep yourself safe if you decide to get pregnant again!
A huge part of our core's job is to be able to handle pressure generated in our body when exercise, work or even just during daily activities. We generate pressure in our core in order to protect the spine. If pressure is generated poorly, it can result in maintaining or worsening a diastasis, or forming one where there was never one before. By learning how to improve pressure management, we can undo the damage completely in some cases, and largely in others. If you see a doming out of your midline during exertion, it's a telltale sign that you have a diastasis. Another common symptom is a poochy lower belly that sags and protrudes.
I offer sessions on how to correct diastasis recti with exercises via video call. I also offer in person sessions in select locations. Find out more!
Technically, yes surgery is an option. The thing is, even if you choose to get surgery, if you haven't taught yourself how to better manage pressure in your core, the diastasis could very well return. And at that point, you will have more scar tissue to deal with. You also may become weaker in your abs while you wait for your surgery to heal - the exact opposite of what a diastasis needs, which is more core strength!
Rather than jump immediately to surgery, I would much rather see folks learn how to manage pressure in their core to set them up for success in either healing a diastasis or leading to the best post surgical outcome if surgery is chosen.
If you have pelvic floor symptoms too, such as leaking pee when you exert, cough or sneeze, that's another tip off that your entire core system could use a bit of work! And that's a great find - because if we know what part of our body needs work, we can get going on fixing it!
Muscles need time to heal after getting stretched out due to pregnancy or the presence of a diastasis otherwise. Rushing back into all the exercises you did before is a recipe for keeping a diastasis or making it worse. Fascia can heal when we support it with the right environment, but the timing of when we challenge it versus let it rest matters.
Who wants to feel like they have a hole in their abs or that their belly just doesn't look the same way anymore? Because our belly is something that others can see in most clothes, it's something that can affect our self confidence. The great news is that diastasis can be improved with some simple exercises that I will show you right now. Please be sure your doctor has cleared you for exercise before trying any of the moves to come.
This exercise will help improve the amount of pressure that is pushed out toward your diastasis both during exercise and also in everyday life.
You'd be surprised how many people's TAs have completely checked out! It's common for the bigger ab muscles to go ahead and do all the work after pregnancy or after a diastasis has formed...unless we specifically perform an exercise that forces them to come back on board.
If you feel any movement of your pelvis - even one millimeter - slow the move down or don't go as far! It's form over all else to get the results we want. This exercise will greatly improve the stability of your core - something everyone with a diastasis desperately needs.
This move is great to do at the beginning of your corrective exercise workout to maximize results, especially if you are struggling with some of the above exercises.
Is Diastasis Recti dangerous?
It can be, if it continues to get worse. It is also common for hernias to develop where a diastasis exists.
Which exercises are bad for a diastasis?
Any that cause your midline to dome (on harder exercises), or cause your muscles to sink in deep (usually on easier exercises). This list is different for everyone, but regular planks, push-ups and chin-ups are common culprits.
Is this a lifelong thing?
Not if we work on it :) Once you learn to better manage pressure in your core, you'll be able to bring back more and more of your favorite exercises into your routine. After learning how to correct diastasis recti with the specific moves you body needs, you'll be on your way.
Do I just have the do the exercises you show here?
Most likely you'll need to advance to the next level of challenge to heal your diastasis. However, since every body is different, I can't tell you which exercises you will need for complete healing without meeting with you. The ones shown on this page are a great start for everyone.
Set up a Free 15 Minute Discovery Call with me to talk about your case.
If you're interested in my services where you can learn how to correct diastasis naturally, we start out with a consultation where I assess where your body is today as well as your symptoms to see what needs to change to get you symptom-free. During the very first visit I will begin teaching you exercises and strategies to help.
You can fill out the form below for a Price Quote, or you can schedule a Free 15 Minute Discovery Call on My Calendar if you'd like to chat first. You will be able to choose between an audio call and a Zoom or Facetime for the 15 minute call. I offer full sessions via Zoom or in person depending on your location.
Whatever you do, do NOT settle for the notion that having a diastasis means you will never again do the activities you love or wear the clothes you want to wear. I've never met a person I couldn't help learn how to correct diastasis recti.
1 A T M van de Water 1, D R Benjamin 2. Measurement methods to assess diastasis of the rectus abdominis muscle (DRAM): A systematic review of their measurement properties and meta-analytic reliability generalisation. 2016 Feb;21:41-53. DOI: 10.1016/j.math.2015.09.013
2 Patrícia Gonçalves Fernandes da Mota, Augusto Gil Brites Andrade Pascoal et. al. Prevalence and risk factors of diastasis recti abdominis from late pregnancy to 6 months postpartum, and relationship with lumbo-pelvic pain. Observational Study Man Ther. 2015 Feb;20(1):200-5. doi: 10.1016/j.math.2014.09.002.