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Diastasis Recti Abdominus (DRA): Abdominal Separation


Think of the abdominal muscles having 2 distinct sides, a left side and a right side.  These muscle groups run from your breastbone to your pelvis and are joined in the middle by thin layers of fascia and tendons like a zipper holding together 2 sides of jacket.   In pregnancy due to the related hormones and the expanding uterus these abdominal muscles are stretched and the connection between the abdominal muscles can actually separate or have excessive widening – this is the diastasis – the separation of normally joined parts.

Effectively the right and left abdominal wall separates as if they were unzipped.  Women may notice a bulging between their muscles, when getting out of bed, standing up from sitting, when lifting their baby, or they may simply feel a gap.

How to check yourself:

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat
  2. Place your fingers above your belly button,
  3. Lift your head and shoulders up like you are going to do a sit up and feel for the rope-like edges of abdominal muscles.
  4. If the distance between the muscles is more than 2 finger widths you will likely need to do special exercises to reduce this gap postpartum.  You have a diastasis.

*Ask your midwife if your are unsure.

How to manage a diastasis in pregnancy?  Try not to strain your abdominal muscles.

For example:  When getting out of bed, or up from horizontal, roll onto your side like log and push yourself up using your arms instead of your abdominal muscles.  Using your arms is also the idea when getting up from the couch, push or pull yourself up!

Also, avoid exercise that put strain on the core muscles.

Exercises to Prevent or Lessen the Severity of Diastasis Recti/Abdominal Separation

You can do a lot to help prevent or lessen the severity of diastasis recti by strengthening your deepest abdominal muscle, your Transverse Abdominis, or TvA. The TvA is the body’s internal “girdle” and when contracted, compresses the abdominal wall.  See for a video demo of the “hissing exercise”.

Postpartum, after your baby is born, in order to correct the diastasis, you will still need to avoid straining your abdominal muscles until they have regained some strength.  Begin with strengthening the TvA, this will take time and some effort.  A physiotherapist is a great resource.


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