In order to allow room for a growing baby the abdominal muscles need to stretch and expand. Diastasis Recti is where the rectus abdominus often know 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 to every pregnancy.
Once the baby is born these muscles are often felt and you may notice a gap. Many women feel that they need to close this gap in order to get their tummy muscles back to how they were before. However, a recent study carried out by Canadian Physiotherapist Diane Lee together with Professor Paul Hodges found that the importance should not 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. If the linea alba that connects the abdominal walls can maintain strength and support to the midline, the rest of the body can then function as it should.
When commencing the restoration phase we like to work from the inside out starting with pelvic floor function and transverse abdominus activation as we see this as your foundation from which your body can build on. When adding movement we want to 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.
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.