Abdominal separation or diastasis rectus abdominis (DRA) is a common physical concern women have following pregnancy. DRA occurs as the two halves of the rectus abdominis muscles stretch to make room for your growing baby, this in turn places stretch through the linea alba, or connective tissue that runs in between the muscle along the midline of your stomach.
In some women, the abdominal muscles will naturally come closer together in the first 8 weeks after birth. In roughly 1/3 of women the rectus abdominis and linea alba have undergone more extensive damage, and need a little help in order to heal effectively.
DRA and pregnancy got a lot of press with Michelle Bridges last year! Separation of the rectus abdominis or ‘six pack muscle’ occurs in up to 100% of pregnancies, however how long this takes to recover will depend on a number of things. Avoiding exercises that place excessive pressure through the linea alba can prevent the separation from worsening. It is important to continue exercising through pregnancy, but abdominal exercises must be modified through each trimester.
Can I do anything if I have DRA during pregnancy?
It is unlikely you will improve or decrease your DRA during pregnancy, as you abdominals will continue to stretch. You can take some simple measures to prevent it from worsening. These include- rolling out of bed via side-lying instead of sitting up, wearing light support over your abdominals such as tubigrip and avoiding any exercises where you notice doming through the middle of your abdominals.
What is normal and when should I see a physio?
Research considers 2 finger widths or less as fitting into the normal range post-partum. However, this is not normal for most women, and if you notice any doming through the midline of your tummy during a sit-up, cough or any other activity it is best to seek advice.
Part 2...Abdominal separation post-partum coming soon!