First a quick explanation of what it is, in case you aren’t sure. There is a band of connective tissue that runs from the bottom centre of your ribs, through your belly button and down to your pubic bone. All your abdominal muscles attach into it and it gets stretched thin during pregnancy to make more space for the baby to grow. It’s called the Linea Alba. After a baby is born that connective tissue usually firms up but sometimes it doesn’t. When stays thin and stretched, we call it Diastasis Recti.
Have you been told you have diastasis recti?
Do you have a list of exercises you’re supposed to avoid (more on this another time), but are wondering if you are just stuck with it or if there is something you can do to make it go away?
It’s a bit confusing out there. The thing with Diastasis Recti is this. Most everybody has it when they are very pregnant, it is a thing that your body does to make space for the baby. Once your baby is born though, it usually heals up, unless something you are doing is interfering with this process, or you have a genetic connective tissue condition.
So, imagining you don’t have a connective tissue condition, what could possibly be keeping it from healing?
Well I’m gonna tell you in just a moment. Before I tell you though I want you to make sure you’ve got your head on straight. If you find that you have either of these habits it is not a bad thing, it’s a great thing because you now have something you can change that may make the world of difference in your healing. The fact that you are dealing with diastasis recti is not because your body is slacking, it wants to heal. Because of that, as soon as you take away what is interfering with the healing, it will start healing.
So here we go.
Habit #1: Belly Breathing
I hear you, haven’t we been taught in yoga to expand our belly when we breathe and isn’t it supposed to be a good thing to do? Well it can be relaxing to breathe that way but it does constantly put pressure on that vertical connective tissue that is trying to heal, all day and all night, with every breath you take.
So what can I do instead?
It will help the tissue to heal if you can spread the pressure that gets created in your belly, everytime you breath in, all the way around your torso, instead of directing all into your belly. Breathing so that there is expansion in your side body, lower back and lower ribs as well as your belly when you inhale can make a big difference.
It can take awhile to change a breathing habit like this, but your body will thank you if you do. Learning a new breathing habit takes practice, so play with expansion happening all around your torso, as you inhale, whenever you can. Waiting in line at the grocery store, brushing your teeth, sitting on the toilet, as you are falling asleep, and sitting in the car at a red light. These are all great places we spend time every day that is easily used for breath practice.
Habit #2: Rib thrusting and/or pelvis position
Hmmmm, posture huh?
I know it sounds lame but so many of us come out of pregnancy with a whole lot of non optimal body positioning. I’m not advocating that you try to stay in an optimal posture all the time, really what your body wants it to move into lots of different postures BUT I wouldn’t be surprised if you tend to stay in one non optimal posture right now most of the time.
The crux of it is this. Your belly is part of a team, I like to call that team the deep core and it includes the deep abdominal corset muscles, deep back muscles, pelvic floor and diaphragm. Pregnancy often disrupts the coordination of these team members with the stretching and compressing of tissues, organs and bones to make space for the baby. As the baby gets bigger there is less and less space for the ribs, diaphragm, organs and torso to move their full range and they lose their communication. We want to get them talking again but to do so they need to be able to hear, or more accurately, feel each other move.
Although this is a common position many moms take on to try and make more room for the baby as it grows in their womb it really messes with how the core system works, and keeps that connective tissue stretched out so it can’t heal.
When the ribs are swung forward and up (like a bell ringing) the hole at the bottom of the ribcage points out the belly instead of into the pelvis. This ribs up position puts a stretch and widening pull on that connective tissue (linea alba) that we want to heal. When the pelvis is tipped forward so that if it was a cup, water would spill out the front its opening points into the belly so it can’t feel the movement of the diaphragm even if the diaphragm is pointing downwards. What we want is the hole at the bottom of your ribs to point to the hole at the top of your pelvis. Another way to think of this is that the front of your torso should be around the same length and tension as the back. If you are stuck in the rib thrust, pelvis tilt position, the front of your torso is going to be way longer than the back, which will be very tight, short and possibly complaining.
Ouch. Give your body a break and try to even out that front back body relationship and you may find that your diastasis starts to heal. It can be tempting when trying to get the pelvis and ribcage to point to each other to grip your upper abs. Don't do it. It will just create more issues. Working on hamstring and low ab strength and allowing the back muscles and hip flexors to get longer and relax will help more that upper ab gripping.
Habit #3: Gripping your abs
Sounds crazy right? Isn't DR a lack of tension in your abs?
It's all about the balance of your ab muscles and their ability to actually get long so they can contract. Your abs are not just your 6 pack muscles. In fact if you only used your 6 pack muscles you're body would have very little support. Check out this picture of your torso without the other ab muscles. Not a lot of support there huh?
Aside from these 6 pack (rectus) abs you also have Obilques that make a criss cross diagonal pattern around your sides and the Transverse abdominis which wraps horizontally like a corset. All these types of abs firing in a balanced way makes for a body and core that works like it should and makes it easier for a DR to heal.
Often the first step to healing a DR is to find that corset muscle or Transverse Abdominis. But lots of gripping in your obliques also make it really hard for a DR to heal and near the end of the healing process you might want to work your 6 pack muscles a bit more to make the gap narrower.
Habit #4: Holding your breath
You may not realize it but you probably hold your breath a lot. Start paying attention, you'll probably be surprised.
When you hold your breath you tend to create a lot more tension in your abdomen than you need to and that pressure ends up pushing into any weak spots. That's what a Diastasis Recti is.
So to review.
Diastasis Recti isn’t something you have to be stuck with for the rest of your life. Sometimes daily habits are getting in the way of your body healing itself. Do some investigating and check out how you breathe, how you position your ribs and pelvis most of the time, and if you are gripping your abs. Any of these can make a big difference to how easy it is for your body to heal up that thinned and stretched midline tissue that we call diastasis recti.
If you have diastasis recti and checked out these 4 things, tell me in the comments what did you discover about your habits? Do you do any of these things? What are you going to do now?
To curiosity and Mom Body Love.
When you do, I'll send you a sweet release that I love. It really helps with headaches and tension in the jaw, neck and shoulders.