Can diastasis recti be prevented?
Diastasis recti is a separation of the abdominal wall muscles. It occurs when the rectus abdominis, also known as the six-pack muscles, stretch sideways and cause damage to the connective tissue in the midline of the stomach. Diastasis recti occurs in a majority of childbearing women and results in a protruding stomach or “pooch”.
While it is not always possible to completely prevent diastasis recti, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing the condition. Read on to learn more about how to prevent diastasis recti, particularly during pregnancy.
Can diastasis recti be prevented in pregnancy?
Pregnancy is the primary cause of diastasis recti, but it is good to note anything that bulges the abdomen forward can overstretch the connective tissue, causing the abdominal muscles to separate.
The best way to reduce the probability of clinical abdominal separation or diastasis recti during pregnancy is to guard the integrity of the linea alba (the band of connective tissue that runs down the front of your abdomen connecting your two sides of muscle). To do this, work by strengthen your transverse abdominis. Recruiting your deep core muscles in therapeutic pelvic floor breathwork in conjunction with a safe exercise regime, like Every Mother’s Prepare program is the gold standard in safe prenatal core workouts.
Tips on How to Prevent Diastasis Recti and Promote Stronger Abdominal Muscles
Exercises to Prevent Diastasis Recti:
If you have diastasis recti and perform the wrong exercises or perform neutral exercises poorly, you can worsen diastasis recti and further separate the abdominal muscles. It is also possible to injure your back and pelvic floor, leading to worse or new symptoms such as low back pain, pelvic prolapse, pelvic pain, and urinary incontinence. The good news is that there are many diastasis recti safe exercises to prevent this from happening.
Safe core movements coupled with Core Compressions help recruit the TVA to strengthen the core. They are a movement that activate your transverse abdominis muscle, also known as your natural corset.
The below exercises properly recruit the deep core muscles (transverse abdominis, diaphragm, lumbar multifidus, and pelvic floor), and will help to strengthen the core and reverse the effects of diastasis recti.
- Wall Planks
- Pushup alternatives
- Waist cincher with single-leg lifts
- Core compressions with ankles crossed
- Tabletop tilts
- Pelvic scoops
- Waist anchor in semi-bridge
- Waist cincher with a twist
- Side plank and Modified Side Plank (from the knees)
- Obliques pull-ups
Again, to get step-by-step walkthroughs of the modifications and suggested exercises listed above, read our article: Ab Exercises for Diastasis Recti: Safely Strengthening Your Core
Avoid Poor core workouts:
Many popular workouts in the fitness sphere claim to build core strength and stamina. But what they don't tell you is that they can also inflict collateral damage on the very tissue you may be trying to restore. Any movement, posture, or exertion that causes the ribs to thrust, abs to bulge forward, or puts a downward or bulging pressure on the pelvic floor can exacerbate or induce diastasis recti. Find out if your workout is causing diastasis recti and 5 exercise mistakes to avoid to heal diastasis recti to ensure your workouts are core-safe.
Rib splaying when stretching
Stretching is an incredible way to wind down and reset after a long day, night, or any workout. Stretching keeps your muscles strong, healthy, and flexible and is an essential tool in diastasis recti recovery. However, when performed incorrectly, stretching can cause the ribs to splay, putting undue stress on the linea alba, injuring the core. Unlike traditional yoga and stretching, core-safe yoga and diastasis recti approved stretches protect the core and modify moves to decrease the range of unsafe motion to minimize the risk of injury.
Prevent Diastasis Recti with These Simple Daily Habits
Body alignment connection can help evenly distribute the body's weight and reduce the strain on the abdominal muscles. Poor posture manifesting in over-tucking the pelvis or hunching the ribcage inward are ways to put intra-abdominal pressure on the pelvic floor. Over time, poor alignment can cause core weakness and present as a pooch in the lower abdominal area.
Avoid heavy lifting:
Incorrectly lifting heavy objects over time can strain the abdominal muscles. Minimizing abdominal pressure is essential in the prevention of diastasis recti. When lifting heavy objects, make a note to use your legs and avoid bending over at the waist. Lifting heavy items includes everything from grocery bags to carrying your baby on one hip to wearing a front-loading baby carrier. When lifting your child from the floor, it is good practice to lunge down on one knee, bring the baby/toddler to your chest, align your torso by stacking your shoulders upright over your hips, and use your leg muscles to lift from your lunge position.
Pushing a Stroller with Forward Flexion:
Taking a gentle walk with your baby is good for the mind and body. But the position in which you do so can put tremendous strain on your back and abdominal muscles. Bending over the stroller with a forward flexion is a no-no for those suffering from diastasis recti, and an important position to avoid even with a healthy core. So, stand straight, belly back, and get moving.
Bulging Abs Forward When You Sneeze & Cough:
Any action that exerts forceful pressure on your abdominal muscles, causing them to bulge forward, can induce or re-open diastasis recti. Sneezing, coughing, blowing your nose, and even vomiting puts immense pressure on the connective tissue (the linea alba) that holds your abdominal muscles together, weakening core strength and function. Being aware of proper abdominal form, even during the slightest bodily functions, will help prevent further injury.
Sleep habits to prevent diastasis recti:
Getting up out of bed properly:
Whether you suffer from abdominal separation or not, it's essential to be mindful of your core with every exertion. Even with the most innocuous activities, including getting up and down from bed or picking things up off the ground can injure your abdominals. Jackknifing, also known as shooting straight up out of bed or lying straight back into bed, can profoundly stress your abdominal muscles and the midline connective tissue. This stress can worsen and induce diastasis recti, resulting in persistent back pain and other complications.
Sleeping on your stomach can put excessive pressure on the abdominal muscles. Stomach lying sleep positions can splay the ribcage and overstretch the linea alba or abdominal wall connective tissue. This strained stretch can create a flaccid effect in the tissue and, over time, present as a persistent pooch, a common physical symptom of diastasis recti. Sleeping on your side can help reduce this pressure and prevent diastasis recti. Practicing good sleep posture is also key. Just like good posture during the day can help prevent diastasis recti, good sleep posture can also be beneficial. Use a supportive pillow to align your head and neck with your spine.
All of these foundational activities are outlined in guided coaching videos for members in the Every Mother Foundations Library.
Check out some of our other articles to learn more about diastasis recti, diastasis recti, exercises, and more to start reclaiming your body today.
- Diastasis Recti 101: What is Diastasis Recti? Everything You Need to Know
- How to Check for Diastasis Recti
- How to Fix Diastasis Recti
- Can You Heal Diastasis Recti Years Later? It's Never Too Late!
- Diastasis Recti Symptoms: Causes, Treatment, and Next Steps
- Diastasis Recti Exercises: What’s Safe and What’s Not?
- Ab Exercises for Diastasis Recti: Safely Strengthening Your Core
- Cardio Exercises with Diastasis Recti
- Pilates for Diastasis Recti: Are You Helping or Hurting Your Core?
- Yoga Exercises for Diastasis Recti