Diastasis recti: How many women get it? And how do you prevent it?

I have good news and I have not-so-good news. Let’s get the not-so-good news out of the way: diastasis recti is more common than you might think. According to WebMD, about two-thirds of pregnant women will experience it.

Now for the GOOD NEWS! Diastasis recti can be prevented!

[SIDE NOTE: Stay tuned for the next blog post where I’ll explain how to heal diastasis recti.]

Some women’s mid lines will close to less than 2 finger-widths after birth without doing anything. But this isn’t the case for many. For most women with diastasis recti, the tissue seperation remains too wide and can end up causing problems. So let’s discuss what we can do to prevent this from ever being an issue.

Protecting your midline should be a top priority during pregnancy. Lynn of Intuitive Hands Physical Therapy in Colorado says women should be protecting their belly by contracting the belly button back toward the spine with everything they do during pregnancy. As with most prevention, diastasis recti can be avoided by following a few simple guidelines.

Protect your abdomen during coughing episodes
It may sound extreme, but even coughing can be a cause of diastasis recti. Should you catch a cold during your pregnancy, or experience a coughing episode, be sure to brace your abdomen with your hands during these episodes. Brace your abdomen by placing one hand in front of your abs and one on your back and holding securely.

Utilize the log roll method when getting out of bed (or couch)
Ben Butts, P.T., director of rehabilitation services and Performance Therapy at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California strongly recommends protecting your vulnerable abdomen from separation by using the log roll maneuver to help when getting out of bed, up off the couch, or off the floor (any time you are laying in a supine position). This is often a method healthcare providers recommend patients utilize in the hospital. Parents Magazine explains the log roll method as, “rolling onto one side with your torso and head aligned, then using your arms to help push yourself up to a sitting position.”

Use caution when laying down
When laying down, begin by sitting on the edge of the bed. Then pull your belly button back to your spine and lay down on your side pulling your legs up onto the bed. Following this step, place your head on the pillow while you are on your side. As you roll to your back make sure your stomach is once again contracted.

Maintain this method of lying down even after your baby is born.

Avoid certain yoga poses and abdominal exercises
There are many movements to avoid during pregnancy. Yoga poses that stretch your abs such as the cow poseup-dogbackbends, and belly breathing exercises should all be avoided. Additionally, any pilates exercises that utilize a head float position, upper body flexion, or double leg extension should also be avoided. As a general rule, any yoga or pilates abdominal movement that stretches your abdomen should be avoided during your pregnancy.

Avoid any abdominal exercises that causes your abdomen to budge during execution. Exercises such as crunches, sit ups, oblique curls, bicycles, and roll ups/roll downs should all be avoided. According to Intuitive Hands Physical Therapy, “Doing a crunch shortens the recti muscles and actually makes any separation worse.  When the muscles shorten they bulge out in the middle. Crunches also increases pressure in the pelvic bowl area. This can weaken the pelvic floor muscles and contribute to pelvic organ prolapse.”

Motherhood has enough difficulties. In our next post, I’ll explain how you can check to see if you have diastasis recti and the exercises you can do to heal it.