& DIASTASIS RECTI
SLIM & STRONG MOMS
Ariane Hundt, Clinical Nutritionist (M.S.) & Fitness Expert + Mom of Two
ASSESSING DIASTASIS RECTI
Before you get started with any workout program,
be sure to check yourself for ab separation (diastasis recti).
You can have DR even if you delivered via C-section.
You can have DR even if you delivered years ago.
I suggest you do this assessment at the earliest two weeks after delivery. Do this assessment even if you’ve delivered many months, or even years ago. Most pregnancies result in some degree of abdominal separation of the two sides of the six-pack muscles.
CHECK FOR DIASTASIS RECTI (DR)
Lie on the floor with your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
Place one arm behind the head, elbow bent, as you would if you were about to do a sit-up.
Lift your head and neck slightly. Don’t lift all the way up as that can distort the results.
With your free hand, find your belly button and the line that runs vertically above and below.
Gently press your finger down along this line and look for a gap.
Measure the depth: If you feel a gap, measure how deep it is by assessing how deep your finger can fit in. Is it to the knuckle, the fingernail or just the tip? Remember that depth to assess your progress as you move through the ab repair workouts.
Measure the width: If you do feel a gap, measure the width in finger widths. You might be able to fit one, two, or more fingers in there horizontally.
A line of 2.5 or more finger-width is considered DR and needs to be restored before conventional ab exercises should be done. That includes sit ups, upward dogs, the cow part of ‘cat/cow’, and planks.
If you have DR, make sure you work on the short DR rehab exercises at least every other day. It takes time to retrain your connective tissue to come back together, so don’t become impatient and jump ahead as you can easily undo weeks worth of rehab exercises by doing the wrong ab move.
WATCH THIS 2-MINUTE ASSESSMENT
If you’re a new mom, assess if you have diastasis recti as that determines which ab routine you want to follow. This video will help you assess if you have it. You will see my own diastasis and stretched belly right after delivery, so you have an idea what I’m talking about
IF YOU HAVE DIASTASIS RECTI
You want to avoid the following moves as they can make the ab separation and bulge worse:
Sit ups, crunches, bicycle crunches, twisting crunches of any kind
Barre or Pilates classes where you are encouraged to lie on the floor with your back and lift your legs up (it opens up the gap).
Moves where you tuck your pelvis under or stick your butt out (upward dog, cat/cow)
Planks (put a lot of pressure on your abs from the inside)
If you delivered very recently a belly wrap can give you support until your core has regained its strength. I’ve found this one to be very helpful in getting my abs back after delivery. I wore it every night and as much as possible during the day in the two weeks after delivery.
Please be patient
in this process.
If you have significant ab separation, you will need about 12 weeks to repair the damage,
if not longer.
Do not progress to regular ab workouts unless you have completely closed that gap. If you advance too early, you risk making the belly bulge worse and the separation even greater. You also risk creating unnecessary stress on your back from lack of abdominal strength support.
WALK AS MUCH AS YOU CAN | You may not feel it is truly exercise, but head out with your baby and walk, walk, walk. There is nothing more restorative than moving all day long. You want these walks to be relaxed and restorative, ideally in nature. The effects of walking will show quickly as walking reduces stress hormones, helps you burn body fat and prevents your appetite from increasing (which is usually high in the first few weeks of breastfeeding).
QUESTIONS + ANSWERS
How early can I start the ab exercises after delivery?
You want to start Kegel and pelvic floor exercises as soon as possible, ideally even in the months before delivery. You can wear a compression belly wrap right after delivery. It will help stabilize your weakened core, help you lose the excess fluid, and helps your uterus shrink back faster. It's a good short-term support until you learn to engage your core muscles properly again.