Top 6 Myths About Diastasis Recti After Pregnancy
I've heard quite a few incorrect / misinformed / downright silly things about diastasis recti after pregnancy lately, so let's set the record straight...
Let's take a look at some of the biggest WHOPPERS I've heard lately...
Diastasis Recti Myth #1: you need a "diagnosis" by a medical professional
How do you know if you have Diastasis Recti after pregnancy? You do not need a formal "diagnosis" by a doctor or any other healthcare professional. They DON'T get taught how to check for this, so if they happen to know how, it's not from their medical training, but from their own interest and research. (Indeed, during my pregnancy at one of my checkups, I taught all the nurses at the prenatal clinic how to check for diastasis recti, just because one of them was interested.)
Diastasis recti has no centralized, official test or treatment, so it's the wild west out there! It's not taught well on most training courses, so professionals have to do a lot of research and go down tons of rabbit holes (and get tons of experience!) to figure this stuff out.
(But it's also not particularly difficult and it's massively overcomplicated on the internet IMO! You firstly need to get an idea of the gap: the width and the tension in the linea alba, and then you need to get an idea of the strength of your abdominal muscles - check out my Super Simple Diastasis Assessment)
.Women's health physios and trainers specializing in postnatal fitness are professionals that can help you with conservative methods. (And they will/should tell you if you should speak to a surgeon)
How To Fix Diastasis Recti Myth #2: You should always see a surgeon You do NOT need a surgeon to diagnose diastasis recti. And a surgeon is NOT the best person to give you exercises. (Their training does not include rehabilitating physical conditions with exercises).
Surgeons are trained to perform SURGERY - they have an amazing set of skills and SOMETIMES diastasis recti will require surgery, or the woman will choose surgery for aesthetic reasons... but there is the potential for a surgeon to be a hammer looking for a nail. At the end of the day, it's your body, so it's up to you, but I would HIGHLY recommend exploring the conservative route before going under the knife.
(Check out @lisa.marie.ryan on Instagram for a really inspiring DR surgery story from someone who explored EVERY possible avenue).
If you want to work on your diastasis, jump on my 10-day postpartum challenge by filling out the form below.
In this 10-day challenge, I take you step by step through 3 core workouts that are suitable for diastasis recti - but it isn't just random exercises thrown together, the workouts build on one another and I show you exactly how to know if an exercise is right for you, or if it's too hard, and you need to take a step back, or if it's too easy and you need to find a more difficult version.
There are also 3 strength workouts and 3 mobility workouts to give you a really balanced workout programme.
And if you want information specifically about diastasis recti, sign up for my DR Starter Pack - this email series will take you through everything you need to know to treat DR.
Diastasis Recti Myth #3 and 4 - "You have a 10 cm gap" and "you have no ab muscles"
If someone tells you you have a 10 cm gap, they are probably talking out of their arse.
Even a very severe diastasis recti might be just a few centimeters wide. Yet I have seen countless women who come to me saying "my Pilates teacher / gyno / friend tells me I have an ENORMOUS gap" - it's almost never the case.
You can check yourself using this video - it's really quite simple to do yourself
And if they tell you "you have NO ab muscles" they are DEFINITELY talking out of their bum hole.
This is just impossible. Anatomically impossible. Yet lots of women come to me besides themselves with worry about this.
Myth #5: You need to wait until your Diastasis Recti is healed before you can go back to exercise
This one really gets my goat. There is sooooo much you can do with a diastasis recti that won't make it worse, and that may even help.
I sometimes see women 10, 11 or 12 months postpartum who have been told by a physio that they need to hold off with exercise until it is healed. This is SUCH A SHAME, because we could have been working on it for the past 6 or more months!
There are a lot of "ab" specific exercises that we can do to help strengthen the anterior abdominal wall - no matter how severe a diastasis recti is, there are ALWAYS exercises that can be adapted to that level, (and that are usually far less demanding on her abdominal muscles than her daily tasks)... Again, on my 10-day challenge, we will not only find exercises that are suited to your DR right now, but also exercises for the REST of your body that are totally safe
Aside from these core-specific exercises, (that are also included in my 10-day challenge) there is sooooooooo much you can do to strengthen the back, bum, arms, shoulders, chest legs... Just check out this video - these are all exercises that are "diastasis recti safe" - they don't put any demand on the abdominal wall.
Even if they don't "fix" a diastasis recti, we have to get out of the mindset that we are only allowed to do things that directly contribute to healing that body part. What about the rest of the body? What about the woman herself and her wellbeing and mental sanity? It is such a shame to stop someone from moving for fear of "doing damage".
Rather we can teach her HOW to move, which movements to avoid (for now) which movements to PRIORITIZE, how to incorporate the breath and manage load... and what's happening in the abdominal muscles and tissues while she is performing different movements.
We need to take the fear out of this for women. We also need to teach them what "DR safe" might look like.
Myth #6: You can "fix" or "close" every diastasis recti
A question that I often get, how long does Diastasis Recti last after pregnancy? You can't "fix" every diastasis with exercise, you may never "close the gap", you may need or want surgery (again, check out @lisa.marie.ryan on Instagram) - no-one has a crystal ball. But by implementing some simple strategies most women experience a lot of improvement. It's a shame to not truly explore that avenue
BONUS MYTH: You should NEVER do crunches
Since publishing this blog post it's become apparent to me that THIS just needs to be added to the list of dumb things people say about diastasis recti.
It's just silly to create blanket statements like this. Every diastasis looks different. And the functional ability of your abominal muscles doesn't totally correlate to the size of the gap. One woman may have a relatively small gap, but very little tension in the linea alba and/or weak muscles. Someone else might have a large gap, but lots of tension and control.
It's daft to create these black and white It's really easy to assess if an exercise is too much for any particular person. If, when performing the exercise, the abdominal muscles bulge up and you can't control it, the exercise is likely too challenging at this point and you'll want to REGRESS the movement (find an easier variation).
Again, this Super Simple Diastasis Assessment will help you assess exactly that and my 10-day challenge will take you through a variety of abdominal exercises and establish exactly what the right starting point for you is.
I'd like to add that even if you can't currently do a crunch, it's absolutely something you'll want to work towards using exercises that are a little easier, but require using your abdominal muscles in a similar way, like this heel tap down:
Or, if that's also too hard, this alternating knee lift:
Whatever your starting point, I want to assure you that it is likely that you can significantly improve your diastasis through exercises, exactly like the ones here. It is largely exaggerated on the internet and there is a LOT of fear-mongering. Diastasis recti or not, most women have to work quite a bit on their abdominal muscles after giving birth, so don't feel disheartened if you are unhappy with your tummy.
For more information on diastasis recti, sign up for my DR Starter Pack, - this short email series will give you all the information you need to know to treat DR AND avoid all the senseless and confusing fear-mongering on the internet.
Jen Curtis is a pregnancy and postpartum fitness specialist who is passionate about helping women transform their bodies in a sustainable way.
The creator of The Complete Postpartum Programme, she is well-known for her no-BS approach, her dedication to facts, science and evidence and for debunking myths around nutrition and exercise.