If you're here, you likely suspect you have diastasis recti. Maybe you've given birth to your first child, recently welcomed a second, or are a seasoned parent with kids long out of the house. Diastasis recti affects over 60% of childbearing women, so no matter what stage of motherhood you are in, you've come to the right place to learn how to check for diastasis recti, and work to resolve it.
Diastasis recti, also known as abdominal separation, is a separation of the rectus abdominis or "6 pack muscles." Pregnancy is the primary cause of diastasis recti, but anyone can get it from improper exercise or movements that put excessive pressure on the abdominals. DR has historically been treated as a cosmetic issue, but the symptoms far exceed a persistent pooch that lingers long after pregnancy; back pain, urinary stress incontinence, and pelvic floor dysfunction are all hallmarks of the condition.
The good news? You can conduct a diastasis recti test on your own, and can soon be on your way to restoring core strength and function from the comfort of your own home. Here's how to check for diastasis recti, along with frequent questions and answers to ensure you do it correctly.
How to Check for Diastasis Recti on Your Own
Diastasis recti can occur in 3 areas: above the belly button, below the belly button, and at the belly button. To conduct a diastasis recti test on your own, follow these four steps and watch the video below.
How to Check for Diastasis Recti:
- Lie flat on your back with your knees bent.
- Place your fingers on your belly button, pointing towards your pelvis, and press down.
- Lift your head up about an inch while keeping your shoulders on the ground.
- If you have diastasis recti, you will feel a gap between the muscles that is an inch wide (~ 2 fingers) or greater.
Diastasis Recti Test Gap Chart:
How to Check for Diastasis Recti Video:
Diastasis Recti Test: FAQs
When should you check for diastasis recti?
When it comes to self-checking for DR, there is no strict timeline. In fact, it's never too late to restore core strength and function with exercise! You can self-check as early as 24 hours following a vaginal delivery, one week after a cesarean, or right now if you're suffering from back pain, incontinence, pelvic pain, or a persistent pooch long after childbirth.
How does a c-section delivery impact self-checking for diastasis recti?
A c-section delivery should not hinder your ability to self-check for diastasis recti because the typical incision point is well below the measuring sites. That said, if there is considerable pain or tenderness in any area, wait to check that spot.
Note: Sometimes OB/GYNs will sew together the lower abs when they finish a c-section. This can impact your ability to get an accurate read on your abdominal separation, so it's best to ask their approach before you give birth and state a preference if you have one. If the delivery has already happened, ask to see the surgical report or ask the doctor what she/he did.
How can I tell if I have a diastasis recti induced "gap"?
When checking yourself for diastasis recti, note both the width and the depth of the distance between the abdominal muscles. To accurately measure the gap, lift your head just barely off the floor to trigger a spontaneous activation of the abdominal muscles. If you've followed the steps outlined in the "how to self-check video" and struggle to find the gap, try lifting your head higher a couple of times until you can feel the difference between the engaged muscles (firm tissue) and the connective tissue (softer) that lies between them. Once you are certain you have identified the muscles and that your fingers are aligned vertically between them (pointing downward towards the pelvis), lift your head about an inch off the floor and record the width and depth of the separation.
Note: When checking for diastasis recti, it's important not to lift your head too high because that will result in an erroneously narrow measurement.
How do I check for diastasis recti if I have a lot of belly fat?
If you have excess belly fat, it's important to press your fingers firmly into your midline when self-checking for diastasis recti. You may need to lift your head and shoulders off the floor to feel the muscles engage. That said, the most accurate measurement will come when the head is lifted about an inch from the ground, and the muscles first begin to grab the sides of the fingers. For this reason, once you are certain you have identified the muscles and that your fingers are pressing down firmly between them (pointing downward towards the pelvis), lift your head about an inch off the floor and record the width and depth of the separation.
How often should I check for diastasis recti?
When participating in the Every Mother program, you will be prompted to perform a self-check and enter your measurements on days 1, 21, 42, 63, and 84 of your EMbody Reclaim Path. It is important not to check more often than every 2-3 weeks because checking is mildly stressful to the tissue you are working to heal.
How do I know if I will need surgery from diastasis recti?
There are times that abdominal separation may require surgical intervention. DR varies from person to person, but if 8 or more fingers sink easily into the gully between your abdominal muscles, follow our EMbody Reclaim stage and consult your doctor to discuss your options. Even if a surgical repair is indicated, surgeons recommend our therapeutic exercises to patients both pre- and post-op to improve outcomes. Our EMbody program holistically supports the health and integrity of the connective tissue, safely strengthens the deep core, coaches patients through safe, functional movements in daily life, and accelerates the healing process.
Every Mother unlocks a scientifically proven method to strengthen the body during pregnancy and rebuild it after birth, regardless of how long it has been since you became a mother. We’re a knowledge circle, a community, and a celebration— of the mother you’ve become, and the woman you’ve been all along. Learn more about the EMbody Program™ here.