19th April 2016

Okay, so you’re a few months post birth and you’re ready to start exercising. High five to you –  the time has come to get hot and sweaty over something other than trying to leave the house with a baby in tow.

But let’s make sure your body is totally ready and that you won’t (without realising) being doing yourself more damage.

Some women will have lingering problems that need time and special attention to help heal and one of those is abdominal separation or Diastasis Recti. Not heard of it? Well, here’s what happens.

Diastasis Recti is where the rectus abdominus often known as the ‘Six pack’ muscles come apart as the linea alba (soft connective tissue that keeps these muscles together) relaxes to facilitate this process. This will happen in varying degrees in every pregnancy.

Sometimes after baby is born, you may notice a gap where the muscles have not come back together again.

Though many women feel they want to work to bring these back together one recent study has actually found that the importance shouldn’t be placed on the closing of the gap but rather on strengthening the connective tissue and other abdominal muscles including the core and pelvic floor, that will restore both function and in most cases appearance.

But how do you know if you even have Diastasis Recti? You may have noticed a particular weakness in your core, maybe more back ache than usual or perhaps even a bit of a bulging tummy that you feel is something more than extra weight.

There is also a small exercise you can do yourself  to check:

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent and one arm behind the head
  2. Curl up in a slight crunch, making sure to move your rib cage towards your pelvis so that your tummy muscles contract
  3. Take your free hand and feel over, above and below the belly button with your fingers
  4. If there is a gap in either place of more than 2 to 2 and a half fingers then this is a degree of diastasis Recti

If you can feel that gap when your muscles are fully contracted, our first piece of advice is to please, not panic. Many women can feel quite alarmed and even distressed as this may make you feel that recovery will be halted but there is plenty you can do to help heal and every chance that you will return to normal. You simply need time.

Our second piece of advice is to have your abdominal separation checked by a professional, simply to give you peace of mind that what you are feeling is correct. Your GP may be able to do this for you, a specialist pre/postnatal trainer or a women’s physio. Getting a professional to check means that you can get a very good evaluation of what degree of separation you have, receive advice on how to help the muscles heal and perhaps most importantly be advised on what not to do.

Abdominal separation

Jelly Belly trainer Janine says:

“It’s good to remember that restoring functionality rather than just focussing on the distance of muscle separation is important.

“Things you can do to help assist your recovery include addressing postural imbalances such as tight shoulders and over stretched muscles so that you begin ensuring that no areas are taking the strain that others should be and that your body is functioning as it should.

“Be aware that doing an activity that your core is not strong enough to cope with may cause regression. Repetitive lifting, bending, or twisting without consciously engaging the core can worsen the issue. A really great rule to help is to remember to exhale whenever going against gravity to help protect the core.

“Prolonged sneezing and coughing can also cause regression to trying to engage the core just before a cough or sneeze can help. It may not sound important but these actions really will contribute to healing and maintaining.”

Exercises to avoid if you are trying to heal Diastasis Recti include anything that puts strain on the mid-line and causes the belly to bulge outwards, so sit-ups/crunches are out, as are planks. Avoid heavy lifting and any exercises that mean you have to twist your spine. Most traditional abdominal exercises are not great for Diastasis Recti.

At Jelly Belly we like to work from the inside out starting with pelvic floor function and activating the deeper tummy muscles as we see this as the foundation which your body can build on. When adding movement we want to first ensure that these muscles are switching on so that you feel stable and secure. Activating and applying the correct resistance to these muscles will also stimulate collagen production causing the soft tissue in the linea alba to regenerate.

Attending a class such as our Post-natal Restore Course which teach you the types of exercises that will help you to heal and remember to look for fitness moves that keep in mind a Diastasis Recti. A postnatal personal trainer willbe able to help you with a programme of recovery.

With the right exercises, overtime you should feel improvement to the strength of the abdominal muscles. Remember, it took 9 months to grow a baby so allow yourself the same amount of time, possibly more, for this process. If the linea alba feels considerably soft or if you are not feeling any improvement, it is best to consult with a specialist Women’s health physiotherapist and we can help refer you to one.

Please contact us for any help and advice you may need in this area and do browse the site as it’s full of pre and post-natal information.



Do YOU have Abdominal Separation? if so, what should you do? - Jelly Belly PT