The Difference Between Abdominal Separation and Diastasis


At The Bloom Method, we believe the conversation about diastasis needs to change.  It is common for OB/GYNs, pelvic floor specialists, midwives, doulas, and other pre- and post-natal fitness experts to label a woman who has any type of abdominal separation as having diastasis. Specifically, a separation of two finger widths or more is medically considered diastasis, but it's the way diastasis is talked about and the way women are educated that lumps everyone into this DR category. Unfortunately, this causes confusion and fear to the point that some women spend the majority of their pregnancy fearing the likelihood of diastasis.

Several years ago, a study concluded that every woman experiences diastasis by the middle to end of her third trimester. Let's think about this for a moment. This study is quite a few years old now. And since then, there haven't been any other thorough studies done on diastasis. Health and fitness professionals still cite this single study. In essence, there's been no evolution of views on diastasis in all this time.

Yet we know that science is ever evolving and changing as we continue to gain knowledge around certain subjects. In the 1980s, people used to think that all fats caused heart attacks. But over time, more and more studies were done and those views changed. Now we understand that there are good fats and bad fats. Just as things shifted around the truth of fats, we're hoping to shed a different light on diastasis.

This is why The Bloom Method is embarking on a study on the prevention of diastasis. And it's also why more data and more studies are needed to truly understand DR. One five year old study should not be the only source of reference.

Why does the conversation about diastasis need to change? It needs to change because there is a difference between naturally occurring abdominal separation and diastasis.

During pregnancy, most women do experience abdominal separation to some degree. Every once in a while, a woman with a long torso does not experience separation, but for most mamas, separation does occur in the connective tissue that holds the rectus abdominis (six pack muscles) together. This connective tissue is called the linea alba.

However, this separation is completely natural and healthy. A woman's body is designed for this tissue to stretch to make room for baby. At the same time, during and after pregnancy, mamas need to be mindful to protect the linea alba. Incorrect movement, incorrect exercising and incorrect breathing can put too much pressure on the tissue.

As long as the linea alba is protected, the separation can be considered natural and healthy. Another wonderful thing about our bodies is that this connective tissue can regenerate postpartum. Mamas who experience this naturally occurring abdominal separation should not be labeled as having diastasis recti. There is no injury component with naturally occurring abdominal separation. These mamas need less rehab and less time to heal.

On the other end of the spectrum are women who have extremely stretched tissue. The linea alba was not protected, and as a result, the abdominal separation results in a "wider" gap. Often, the separation is referred to in terms of finger widths, and these women have a 2 ½ finger diastasis or wider. These women need more serious rehabilitation and often experience a physical change in their abdomen - commonly called the "Mommy pooch." These are the mamas who truly have diastasis recti.

Diastasis is the injury component of a naturally occurring abdominal separation. If we create an over-weakening in the linea alba or allow the connective tissue to lose its integrity, mamas experience a more severe separation (dysfunctional diastasis recti). Furthermore, as professionals, we should measure more than just the gap width; we should also examine the depth of the gap as this shows the health of the connective tissue and can be more important than the width.

In our industry, we must make a distinction between women who maintain a healthy connective tissue through pregnancy and postpartum and women who did not and have diastasis. Of course, this is through no fault of the mamas. We usually find that women who have DR and didn't protect the linea alba simply weren't educated about abdominal separation and how to regulate the pressure during pregnancy. At The Bloom Method, we believe diastasis can be prevented.

Injury doesn't have to happen. Months and years of rehab don't have to happen, and core exercises don't have to be avoided because of injury. If we embrace the beautiful way our bodies were designed to make room for babies while also taking the necessary measures to allow abdominal separation to happen naturally and without increased pressure, we can prevent injury and diastasis recti in our expecting mamas.

Want to discover exercises you can use to heal or prevent diastasis? Join Studio Bloom today!

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