Healing Your Diastasis Recti After Pregnancy

Diastasis Recti is one of the most common pregnancy injuries women experience after birth. Learn how to assess the severity of your diastasis and get our tips for healing postpartum.

Let’s start with a little-known, but important fact: your abdominal muscles have always been separated. Your six-pack muscles are connected by a band of connective tissue called the linea alba. The linea alba can vary in width and thickness, making everyone’s level of natural separation different - but still present. 

Diastasis recti is normal and naturally occurring during pregnancy. For many women, after giving birth this separation will begin to heal and close itself during the Fourth Trimester, and without any intervention. However, by utilizing a combination of intentional breathwork, rest, and rehabilitation, you can increase the chances of any DR healing naturally. 

Unfortunately, for some women, the gap will persist and cause pain or other issues. This is what we classify as an injury-based Diastasis Recti, and it’s caused by irregular intra-abdominal pressure [IAP]  and/or the inability to regulate your IAP, leading to a weak or unhealthy connective tissue. The visible manifestation of this weakness is doming or coning along the midline of your abdomen when performing exercises or every movements like getting out of bed. 

Diastasis Recti is incredibly common in postpartum women and can be addressed regardless of how far postpartum you are. Most women are able to heal their Diastasis Recti naturally, through a combination of breathwork, specific exercises, and physical therapy. In rare cases, a severe injury-based Diastasis can require surgery. Let’s explore how diastasis works, what injury-based diastasis really means, and how to heal postpartum.

Understanding How Diastasis Recti Works

Before getting pregnant, the way we move in everyday life and exercise affects the pressure within our abdominal canister, which can affect the integrity of the linea alba (the connective tissue between your six-pack muscles), either weakening or strengthening it. The integrity of your connective tissue plays an important role in the overall health and strength of your core.

It’s entirely possible to maintain a healthy level of separation during your entire pregnancy. While this separation does have the potential to weaken the linea alba, it doesn’t have to weaken it to the point of injury. Being mindful of the way you move throughout pregnancy as your belly grows will help you avoid doming and coning, a visual indicator that you are placing too much pressure on the connective tissue.

A dysfunctional core is not a guaranteed outcome after pregnancy. Every woman does not end up with injury-based diastasis rectus that requires special attention to heal. This is a common bit of misinformation told to expecting women and we want to set the record straight. However, if you are a mama that has injury-based diastasis, please know that this is incredibly common and you are not to blame. Just like you can prevent injury-based DR, you can heal it in powerful ways while learning more about your core than ever before.

What is Injury-Based Diastasis Recti?  

As we’ve already touched on, diastasis recti and injury-based diastasis recti are two different things. Check out this visual of normal versus injury-based diastasis.

The mainstream narrative tells women that diastasis recti is an unavoidable outcome of pregnancy, and to some extent this is true. However, as we discussed above, the true definition of DR is just the separation of the recti muscles, which is completely normal during pregnancy. Injury-based Diastasis recti is anything where the weakening of the connective tissue goes beyond the natural and fully supportive stretching.⁣

Watch as The Bloom Method Founder explains the difference between naturally occurring Diastasis Recti and injury-based Diastasis, as well as how to prevent and heal: 

We’re learning more about Diastasis recti every day but one of the truths we do know is that it’s the health of your connective tissue that truly determines your level of DR or whether or not you’re dealing with an injury that needs to be addressed.

Tips for Healing Injury-Based Diastasis Recti 

When addressing and healing injury-based diastasis recti, steer clear from single exercises or techniques that “heal” you. The process of regaining full functionality takes time, and like most things that seem too good to be true, quick fixes make unreasonable claims and will leave you feeling even more disheartened.

Healing injury-based diastasis recti requires you to learn new, corrective techniques, and then work on integrating them into your everyday life. You’ll need to address problems like: 

  • How to correctly engage your core and perform supportive breathing.

  • Strengthening with smart, core-specific exercises.

  • Integrating what you’ve learned to repattern daily movements.

  • Assessing posture and how you pick up and carry your little ones.

Another critical component of healing an injured core unit is learning how to regulate your intra-abdominal pressure [IAP] during all exercises and functional movements, while simultaneously re-strengthening the deep musculature. It also requires re-building tension in the connective tissue (linea alba). 

This is beyond simply closing the gap. It’s about being smart with your movement both in exercise and your daily actions. How does your core respond to a cough, a sneeze, sitting up from a reclined position, and even picking up a toddler?⁣

The power of your breath and proper core recruitment can turn on your midsection in ways you never imagined while helping to build the strongest foundation you've ever known.⁣ When you focus on strengthening the connection with your core you unlock the power to regulate your IAP. With regular practice, you also learn your limitations. Inside Studio Bloom, we not only teach the fundamental breathwork techniques that help you regulate your IAP but also modifications to use when you’re not able to manage the pressure.

Performing core exercises with proper, deep core engagement is critical for highly functional abdominal muscles. Then it’s time to practice by incorporating them into your everyday life—and all your workouts. 

Here are three core-based exercises for prenatal and postpartum mamas:

  1. Learn how to use diaphragmatic breath to access a deeper, more transformative type of breathing that utilizes your entire abdomen, side body, and back body. 

  2. Use Bloom’s belly pump: The deep contraction of both the pelvic floor and transverse abdominal muscle (TVA) make this more than “just breathwork” - it’s an exercise!  The belly pump creates a co-lengthening and co-contraction of your TVA and pelvic floor muscles, bringing them back “online” so that they work together. 

  3. Practice the deep core hold: Use this exercise to build muscle endurance in the deep core and pelvic floor by maintaining an intentional connection for a sustained amount of time.

Whether you’re trying to heal injury-based diastasis to regain functionality, because of pain, or because you just hate that “mom pooch,” you need to adopt a multi-pronged approach, involving education, smart core-specific healing exercises, and breathwork. Remember, there’s no shortcut. Once you understand the techniques involved in healing time and dedication are required. 

Bottom Line: 

Separation is normal. Separation isn’t always an injury. Separation is present in everybody, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have injury-based diastasis recti. If you do find yourself several months postpartum and experiencing pain or a lack of functionality, you may be suffering from injury-based diastasis. 

If this is the case, there are tools and techniques available to help you heal your diastasis recti and build your core strength back, likely even better than before pregnancy. 

Is it hard work?

Does it take learning new things?

Is it rewarding?

Does it require moving + exercising with intention?

While the answer is yes, we think it’s important, and empowering to know what your body is capable of.

At the end of the day, we hope you can lean into the fact that your body was designed to grow and stretch and move safely ALL while carrying your baby. It was also designed to be able to heal itself if given the proper rest and rehabilitation attention postpartum. The narrative around DR often fills us with fear and disempowering views of our bodies and how they support us throughout the motherhood journey. 

We created and designed the Studio Bloom app specifically to empower you through all stages of motherhood while addressing the various needs you might have. We all have different needs during pregnancy, postpartum, and well into motherhood. At Studio Bloom, we aim to meet you wherever you are, whether training for birth preventing Diastasis [injury] or healing and restrengthening postpartum.

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