How to Self Test for Diastasis Recti & Exercises to Repair DR
Hi friends! How’s your week going? We got home yesterday from our quickie trip to the beach for Spring Break and it was a really good time. James had friends there and swam all day in the pool and Jordan absolutely loved her first time at the beach. She happily played with her bucket and shovel in the sand for hours! It always reminds me that it’s really the simple things in life that are often the best!
You can see a few pics already here and I’ll be sure to share a detailed recap next week. We are tired though! Jordan didn’t sleep well either night we were away, so we needed to get back home and to our own beds so we could all get a good night’s rest!
Today, I’m sharing a follow-up to the Body After Baby- 1 Year Later post, specifically dealing with diastasis recti (ab separation). I have diastasis recti (“DR”) and have heard from so many of you that have it too. Some of you have been living with it for a long time and didn’t even know it!
DR is very common during pregnancy and postpartum where the right and left side of your abdominal muscles spread apart at the mid-line fascia. If you got that dark line going down your belly during your pregnancy (I did), that’s the linea alba, and that’s where our abs separate. DR isn’t caused by pregnancy, but rather the abdominal pressure that often accompanies pregnancy.
DR keeps lowers the strength of your abdominal wall and can aggravate lower back pain and cause that annoying “pee when you laugh or sneeze” situation. It can also cause a tummy bulge or pooch in the middle where the separation occurs.
Even though I’m pretty well toned overall, my DR and loose belly skin from pregnancy are very apparent underneath. If I stand very straight, it doesn’t look as bad, but if I bend over at all . . .
Which is why I usually wear tank tops or jackets and over my sports bra. And definitely why I love these high waist capri leggings so much! They are soft and smooth and come up high enough to help hold you in and make you feel more secure, without being constricting.
I love the mesh panel at the back of the calf too- super cute!
So how can you tell for sure if you have DR? You can see your OB-GYN for an evaluation for DR, but it’s also fast and easy to test yourself at home.
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
2. Place one hand behind your head, and lift your head and neck slightly.
3. Place your fingertips across your midline, parallel with your waistline, and press down. If you feel a gap greater than 2 finger widths apart, it is likely you have DR.
4. Move your fingers above and below your below your belly button to measure the DR.
My DR measurement is about 2 1/2 finger width. You can see the muscles on either side of where I’m pressing and then the gap in the middle where I can fit my fingers through.
First of all, it’s important to note what NOT to do when you have DR, because you can make it worse. You’ll want to avoid exercises that place strain on the midline, or cause the belly to bulge outward, which means, no sit-ups, crunches, or planks.
The good news is, you can bring your ab muscles back together, improve your strength, stability and how your stomach looks with very simple exercises! Yay for that! #thereshopeforus!
As far as exercises that can help correct DR and bring the ab muscles back together, everything I’ve read and researched have all pointed more toward breathing and deep inner core work as opposed to traditional exercise. So, it’s more like subtle movements and breathing that help bring the abs back together the most.
When you start doing this, it may feel weird or like you’re not really “doing anything”, but one main way to do that deep inner core work is BRACING. I learned this on MamaStrong.com and you can do it anytime, anywhere.
STEP 1 (Belly to the Spine) :: Lie down on your back in a neutral position. Breathe in and push your belly out, exhale and press your belly to the spine without moving the spine. Basically, you are pressing your belly into your spine as hard as you can while keeping your back neutral. (Don’t tuck your pelvis under).
STEP 2 (Kegel) :: While you have exhaled, do a kegel (squeezing the sphincter, not just the “stop peeing” muscle) to go deeper into the pelvic floor while keeping your back neutral (don’t move your spine).
STEP 3 (Midback) :: While you are bracing (doing Step 1 & 2), apply gentle pressure on your midback (where your bra strap would be) to your midline. Essentially, you’re imagining a tack at the middle of the back of your bra strap and you’re envisioning pulling that in to help give you more mid back support.
After you get the hang of properly bracing, which actually may take a lot of practice, you don’t have to do it laying down. You can do it sitting, standing and all throughout the day while you go above your business.
I admit, I haven’t been doing the bracing very often, but I need to because I’ve heard so such good results when people stick with it. One of my good friends has been doing it religiously, and she said she noticed her DR significantly decrease.
Have you had success with closing your DR gap? If so, please share what worked for you!