Part 2-Preventing Diastasis Recti in Pregnancy
Diastasis Recti is a separation of the rectus abdominus muscles that is a common occurrence during pregnancy. What we do with our bodies during pregnancy can make this separation worse and the recovery process longer. There are three aspects you need to be aware of to help prevent diastasis recti. In a previous post we talked about the first aspect of how rib thrusting contributes to the development of diastasis recti. See this post to review rib thrusting.
The second aspect you need to be aware of to avoid diastasis is to protect your abdominal muscles with all your activities. Any time the belly protrudes forward forcefully, like when you laugh, cough or sneeze, the abdominal muscles get strained apart. The more strain the more separation. If you are in your late second or third trimester and you notice any doming in the midline of your belly, this is the abdominal muscles separating. You want to avoid this.
The third trimester is the period of time that greatest strain is placed on the abdominal muscles. The less your belly domes up in the middle the less separation there will be.
How do you stop the doming and separating?
You can stop the separation of the abdominal muscles by pulling the belly button back to the spine before you do any activities that may strain the belly. So before you cough, laugh or sneeze bringing your belly button into your spine or hug your baby toward your spine. Also before you go to lift anything heavy, contract your abdominal muscles back toward your spine or think about hugging your baby in.
Don’t do sit ups or crunches during pregnancy
Doing a crunch shortens the recti muscles and actually makes any separation worse, especially when pregnant. When the muscles shorten they can bulge out in the middle if you aren’t really careful with how you are doing them. They are almost impossible in your third trimester as your belly gets big with baby. You will find this out when you go to get out of bed, you have to roll over onto your side as sitting straight up in late pregnancy is very challenging. Crunches also increase pressure in the pelvic bowl area. This can weaken the pelvic floor muscles and contribute to pelvic organ prolapse. You don’t want that!
Sit ups should be avoided during pregnancy and are not an exercise I ever recommend to my patients as there are other ways to strengthen your abdominal muscles. However, it is important to learn how to do one that doesn’t increase pressures on your pelvic organs after birth. Engaging your core correctly first and avoiding any doming of the midline is imperative in the postpartum period if you do any sit-ups.
Best form of exercises during pregnancy
If you want to strengthen your abdominal muscles just pulling your belly button back to your spine is the safest and most effective way to do so while pregnant. Walking is another way to strengthen the abdominal muscles, as they have to work to support the spine. In my opinion, walking is the best form of exercise you can do while you are pregnant.
So protecting your belly by contracting your belly button back to your spine or think of hugging your baby back inside with everything you do is the second step in avoiding a diastasis recti while pregnant.
In the next post we will cover the third aspect, which is the most common motion we do at least twice a day that can contribute to diastasis recti. Stay tuned!
If you want to know how to heal Diastasis please check out my online course Confidence in your Core, Pelvic Floor, and More.