Before we get into the how to’s of Diastasis Recti (DR) checking, there are some important things to remember, let’s touch on those first: )
You do not need to check for DR immediately postpartum!
Everyone’s abs will separate during pregnancy to some degree which means they will also have to come back together! We need to give them time to do that. Checking before 10 -12 weeks is only going to freak you out for no reason!
You’re not just checking for a gap.
When looking for DR you want to check how many fingers width fit into the space but you also want to pay attention to how deeply your fingers sink which is really feeling for the tension of the connective tissue (linea alba). It’s worth noting here that the gap is measured in finger widths and is usually only considered DR if it is 2+ wide.
You can have a gap in one place and not another.
Just because you feel some space or depth in your upper, lower, mid abs, doesn’t mean it has to continue the length of your core. It may be that you have a weakness in the linea alba tissue only in one area because of your core recruitment patterns and a constant stressor they put on that one particular area.
It is possible to have a gap and also a functional core.
Your DR is considered functional if you can activate and recruit your deep core correctly and it is able to do its job stabilizing the core. DR becomes an issue when it is causing core dysfunction and pain, not just because there is a gap.
There are varying degrees of DR severity.
Just because you may feel like you have a gap doesn’t mean that you need to panic or that you’ll need medical intervention. A lot of DR can be closed or become functional with deep core targeted exercises and focusing on how to correctly to control intra abdominal pressure in daily life and exercise.
You need to reconnect and use your core properly in daily life and exercise to heal DR.
This one is important. You can correctly do all the deep core focused, DR closing exercises in the world but if you are not bringing that proper use of your core into daily life as well, you will continue to damage the already weakened tissue and most likely prevent all your efforts from being fully effective. Bringing what you learn about controlling intra abdominal pressure and recruiting your deep core in your daily life movements is vital. When you’re getting up from bed, a chair, lifting groceries or baby or the various other movements we all do daily we want to be mindful of our core.
Checking for DR
First you will chek for the width and depth of the gap as well as the integrity of the linea alba, while relaxed. Lie on you back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. You will take 2 fingers to start with and walk them down the midline of your belly from the ribs to the hip bones. When checking for a gap, you can feel for the ‘ridges’ or edges of your abs on either side of the linea alba. Also keep in mind that being postpartum, there may be extra skin or belly fat that you will have to take into account. This means that you may feel your fingers sinking in to extra skin of belly fat as while determining if your fingers sink into the linea alba tissue.
After checking while relaxed, lift your head and try to bring your chin to your chest. While you are holding this position, repeat the same test. Again feeling for the width, depth and integrity of the linea alba. You’ll want to pay attention to any changes that happen here.
Remember, you’re not just looking for a gap, you also want to take note of the linea alba tissue. This means checking for tension or lack there of. Can your fingers sink deeply in?
If you feel like you have a severe DR and it’s causing problems or you just aren’t sure and want to know more, it’s worth scheduling one session with a women’s health physical therapist to be evaluated! Then you have a base to go from and you can decide if you want to do deep core exercises at home, get help from a specialist or another option.
Also want to say that repeatedly doing this DR test is not productive! The more you poke and push at the tissue, the more you’re stressing it from the outside. This can also cause damage the same way uncontrolled pressure pushing on it from the inside can.
It’s also worth noting that just like anything else, a full body approach works best! Being mindful of your deep core as a whole, not just the transverse abdominis, fueling your body with nourishing foods, moving, and keeping a positive mindset are all an important part!
I’m currently still working on the postpartum plan sooo hopefully I can get that going soon for anyone that needs more help with this! 🙂
Sweat, Smile, Repeat!