Postpartum Abdominal Separation

Abdominal separation, also called diastasis recti, refers to separation of the right and left half of the abdominal muscles.

If you've had a baby more than 8 weeks ago, you are ready to fix any diastasis recti issues you may have. Abdominal separation, also called diastasis recti, refers to separation of the right and left half of the abdominal muscles. It occurs during pregnancy due to abdominal stretching. If you are 6-8 weeks postpartum and want to start an exercise program, you will need to check for it. A separation of 2 fingerwidths is considered problematic.

Checking for diastasis recti

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent, and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Put one hand behind your head. Place the other hand on your abdomen, with your fingertips by your belly button, and parallel with your waistline. Make sure your abdominals are relaxed, and gently press the tips of your fingers into your belly.
  3. Do a crunch, rolling your shoulders and upper back off of the floor.
  4. With your fingertips, feel for the right and left sides of your rectus abdominis muscle. The number of fingers which fit between the left and right side, is the amount of separation.
  5. Repeat this test with fingers placed at, above, and below your belly button.

What to do if you have diastasis recti

If you have diastasis recti past 8 weeks post-partum, it will not fix itself. You need to help it along. Never do crunches, or exercises which stretch the abs, as these can make the abdominal separation worse, and it may become permanent.

Exercises which make abdominal separation worse

  • lying with your back curved against an exercise ball
  • yoga moves such as the cow pose, upward dog, backbends and cobra pose
  • twisting exercises such as the triangle pose
  • abdominal exercises which are done with shoulders and upper back off the floor, ie. the "crunch" position - crunches, bicycle, rollups, the hundred (pilates)
  • abdominal exercises which involve both legs being put straight out
  • exercises which require heavy core activation such as squats

Exercises which make abdominal separation better

You need to strengthen your transverse abdominus. Doing so will help pull the sides of your rectus abdominus back together. When you do your transverse abdominus exercises, you should manually splint your abs together by placing your right hand on your left abs, and your left hand on your right abs and pulling toward the center.

Once you have fixed your transverse abdominus weakness, and gotten rid of your abdominal separation, return to the postpartum exercise section for some great exercise routines you can do to take you even further.