Six Things to Avoid if You Suspect Diastasis

Diastasis, or the separation of the rectus abdominis, is common after pregnancy, but you can correct it with physical therapy. Learn more in this article.
Six Things to Avoid if You Suspect Diastasis

Last update: 24 August, 2021

The abdomen opens up space for a child to grow during pregnancy. Thus, the muscles distend and separate. That said, you must keep a few things in mind if you suspect you might have diastasis.

“Diastasis,” like many words in the medical field, comes from ancient Greek dias (through), statos (standing, stopped), and sys (‘action’). It loosely translates to “separation of parts of the body that were joined together.” This refers to the rectus or abdomen muscles, in this case.

Interestingly, diastasis isn’t exclusive to postpartum. In fact, overweight, ascites or accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, and excessive activity in this area tend to cause it.

Learn how to recognize it below.

Recognizing abdominal diastasis

A person pulling their skin.
Diastasis is a common condition in which there’s a separation of the abdominal muscles.

You’ve given birth and even though time goes by you still have a bulging belly. There’s pain and instability in the lower back and weakness in the pelvic floor. There’s also urinary incontinence, poor digestion, gas accumulation, and even herniated abdominal viscera. All this puts you on the track for diastasis.

However, the best thing to do is not to self-diagnose and consult a specialist if you suspect you have diastasis as there may be harmful sequelae.

Nevertheless, try the following if you’re convinced that your symptoms indicate you have this condition:

  • Lie on your back with your legs bent and the soles of your feet flat on the floor.
  • Put one hand under your head and the other on the umbilical area.
  • Gently begin an abdominal exercise by lifting your head and shoulders; then look toward your belly button.

A separation between the rectus abdominis will become visible. You can measure the distance with your fingers. The separation will be up to one inch if there is diastasis. Keep in mind that anything larger, 1-2 inches, may require surgery.

No doubt the best thing to do after vaginal delivery is to consult your doctor two weeks after. They’ll assess your pelvic floor, abdominal muscles, and pelvis. Visit them after a month if you underwent a C-section, especially if there’s discomfort.

The doctor will feel the area and, after following the protocol, will determine if there’s a separation of the abdominal muscles and what type of diastasis it is:

  • Functional, if the transversus abdominis contains the viscera
  • Anatomical, if it protrudes or leads to a hernia

Six things to avoid if you have diastasis

Consider these recommendations that’ll surely help you avoid further complications if you suspect you have diastasis. Of course, always follow your doctor’s advice.

1. Don’t do classic sit-ups

Crunches won’t correct separated rectus abdominals. On the contrary, they’ll worsen the condition. Are you with hypopressive exercises? Find out what they are if not and do them using postural techniques that cause the intra-abdominal pressure to drop.

2. Running or jumping, leave it for later

Do you look in the mirror and aren’t happy with your postpartum figure? Control your anxiety.  Impact exercises such as running or jumping are strongly discouraged if you have diastasis. This is because these exercises increase abdominal tone and put more pressure on the linea alba and distend it further.

3. Ask for help, avoid lifting if you have diastasis

The hardest thing to do after giving birth is having to lift weight — beyond the baby. It’s already a major effort to be alone and lift the baby from the crib or bed to attend to them.

Stay with your baby and warn the family members around you of this need if possible. Keep in mind this is a matter of health. Thus, don’t lift weights or anything heavy to prevent pelvic floor injuries.

4. Be careful when using postpartum girdles

The tendency to seek relief is natural, especially if you add the experience of mothers and grandmothers. This is the case with postpartum girdles. They don’t really eliminate the distension of the abdominal muscles but might relieve pain, provide stability and improve posture.

However, consider that pain relief camouflages diastasis. Thus, their use is only appropriate after obtaining a medical evaluation and diagnosis. This way, you’ll know what’s the most appropriate one for your specific ailment.

5. Take precautions when coughing or sneezing if you suspect diastasis

Hold your abdominal muscles with your hands so you can contain the viscera against the linea alba affected by the suspected diastasis when coughing or sneezing.

Also, get up on your side before getting out of bed. Also, bend your knees and not your trunk when bending over.

6. Prevent constipation

Do everything you can to prevent constipation. This is normal the first few days of the postpartum period, just don’t let it become the rule. This is because distended abdominal muscles don’t work as they should. It’s understandable to feel discomfort and even fear though.

Furthermore, stay properly hydrated, eat foods rich in fiber, rest but don’t neglect movement, and don’t hold back when you feel the urge to poop to make things easier.

Thus, relax. Complement it with hypopressive and Kegel exercises to help prevent constipation and hemorrhoids.

7. Follow your therapist’s recommendations

Reaching for surgery to reduce the separation of the greater linea alba to a bit over an inch or more is a good option if physical therapy fails.

Therefore, you may enroll in a physical therapy plan appropriate to the specific case if you received a diastasis diagnosis.

A woman exercising.

There is no universal best exercise for diastasis so find the best one for you. Consult a specialist who can evaluate your case and follow their recommendations. You’ll most likely be able to skip surgery as you help your body naturally regain its normal functions.

Indeed, physical therapy yields excellent results. In fact, recent studies point to routines on the local stabilizing muscles to increase lumbopelvic stability:

Hypopressive abdominals

These are postural, repetitive, and rhythmic exercises based on breathing and diaphragm control which elevate the uterus, bladder, and intestines. They’re not recommended during the three months of postpartum. In addition, they’re designed to introduce changes in the body’s outline.

Also, they decrease the intra-abdominal and intrathoracic pressure and procure automatic activations of the muscles of the perineum and the abdominal girdle. Moreover, they reduce and tone the waist and pelvic floor muscles, and reduce back problems by improving posture.

Exercises for voluntary activation of the transversus abdominis muscle

The transversus abdominis muscle is sought to be reflected when you need to lift weights, cough, laugh, run or jump with the repetition of these exercises. In this respect, it generates the biomechanical conditions that promote the proper execution of the movements. This is because it controls the intra-abdominal pressure.

Exercises for activation of the oblique abdominal and rectus abdominis muscles

Once you activate the transversus abdominis, you must then activate the obliques. These are the anterolateral muscles that perform trunk rotations and support the viscera. The former is important because the transversus guarantees the stability of the lumbar spine by avoiding compression of the lumbar structures and pain.

In general, go to the bathroom before the routines because you can observe changes in bladder filling as the autonomic nervous system works. Apnea causes glottis closure and, therefore, dryness in the throat: be aware of hydration. It’s important to do the exercises on an empty stomach or after full digestion.

You’ll get a proper stabilization of the axial axis of the skeleton that ensures optimal balance and movement of the upper and lower limbs in the development of your daily life with these.

When to consult a doctor about diastasis?

Consult them if you experience lower back pain, gas, and still have a bulging belly after the eighth week of giving birth. You can be monitored by a physiotherapist who’ll know the best exercises to bring the rectus abdominis back into place once you know the degree of diastasis.

Do you suspect diastasis?

Don’t panic, as it’s quite common. At least one in two women experience it and it goes away on its own in most cases. However, take precautions before and after childbirth.

It’s typical for the muscles to distend during and after pregnancy so just be careful about doing movements and work that might worsen it. Strengthen your abdominal muscles if you’re planning to become pregnant. This way the separation of the rectus abdominals won’t be a problem for you.

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