Diastasis recti is an incredibly common occurrence. Sadly, just as common is all the misinformation floating around about it. So we’re going to start with a short primer on the underlying mechanics of diastasis recti (though you can find a comprehensive explanation here), then tackle the Top 10 Diastasis Recti Myths one-by-one.
What is diastasis recti?
Diastasis recti (DR) is the widening of the gap between the two sides of the Rectus Abdominis muscle. The split occurs at the Linea Alba, which is the midline collagen structure of connective tissue at the front of your abdomen. It is also called diastasis, ‘Divarication of the Recti’, DRA or ‘Rectus Divarication’.
What are some common misunderstandings about diastasis recti?
Let’s take a look at 10 myths about diastasis recti that could hinder your recovery.
- You have to heal diastasis recti right after birth.
For many mums, diastasis recti will correct itself in the first eight or so weeks after you’ve given birth. For many others (again, DR is very common), it will take some intentional effort to help bring your abdominal muscles back closer together.
In our age of ‘bounce back’ celebrities and mommy fitfluencers, it can feel like you need to get working on that flat tummy two seconds after baby has emerged from your body. However, the pregnancy process that took nearly a year to develop in your system isn’t bounced right away so soon after the last push or stitch. Give yourself some time to reconnect mentally with your body, get in touch with the muscles of your core and pelvic floor, and take a slow and maybe more neutral approach to addressing foundational strength postnatally. Going slow often means going safe, which means also working out most effectively. All good things worth the wait.
Plus, it’s really never too late to try and heal your core. MUTU has success stories from grandmothers!
- There’s nothing you can do about diastasis recti — you’re stuck with mom belly forever.
We’ve gotten to the point where leaking, aching, and muscle weakness are seen as something mums are stuck with. While it’s true that many new mums will experience a tough adjustment to a post-birth body, these common postpartum concerns shouldn’t be looked at as ‘normal’ in a way that dismisses them as something to just suck it up about. Pregnancy and birth certainly changes your body, but it doesn’t render you broken or defective. This messaging we need to steer away from.
You can decide for yourself how intensive you want to work on your body after having a baby. There are levels of severity with diastasis recti, which may make surgery — structural or cosmetic — be ideal for you. For some mums, it’s about returning to a level of athletic ability after baby. For many, it’s an aesthetic concern and healing the gap will help them feel more like themselves again. All these motivations are valid and can inspire you toward a healthy, strong, confident postpartum body.
- Diastasis recti is an injury.
Diastasis recti is not an injury at all! It’s a result of excess pressure on the abdominals in pregnancy and/or birthing causing a bulging effect, but is not an injury as we commonly think of such.
- Belly binding will help heal diastasis recti.
Following the most up-to-date research and evidence, MUTU does not recommend belly binding or using a splint to heal diastasis recti.
Diastasis is deeper and more complex than just squeezing tissue back together. You’ll have to work on the core (pun intended) issue of poor alignment underlying the separation of your muscles. You can learn more about how posture and breath plays into realigning your midline.
- You have to lose weight to lose your mummy tummy.
It’s probably a good bet that many mums come to understand that they have diastasis recti because they’ve been attempting to “shed those pregnancy pounds” or the like. For better or worse, just losing weight isn’t going to help heal your diastasis recti.
The “mommy belly” look of your postpartum stomach, sometimes long after birth is not an excess of fat, it’s an expansion of muscle — though not the good, strong kind. Realigning your body and working on functional movement can go a long way in changing the shape of your tummy. From there, you can start to slowly and thoughtfully add intensity to your workouts, which can help you feel like you’re in better shape overall.
Read more about how postpartum nutrition plays a role in healing diastasis recti.
- Diastasis recti occurs only in postpartum.
Interestingly enough, even men can have diastasis recti. It’s not something that emerges suddenly just because you are postnatal. The stress on your abdominals typically occurs in your pregnancy, but doesn’t have time to heal (on its own or through your efforts) until the added weight of a baby is gone. In some cases, the pressure which causes diastasis recti happens during birthing. For all these reasons and more, it’s a good idea to work on your alignment and diaphragmatic breathing at all stages of your pregnancy journey and beyond.
- Healing diastasis recti is all about doing ab-specific exercises.
Okay by this point we sound like a broken record, but it’s all about alignment! You can crunch or pilates till the cows come home, but that won’t necessarily restore your core.
Luckily for most every-body, contemporary conversations about exercise emphasize whole body health and movement, realizing that our bodies aren’t just a stack of muscle groups, but a pretty amazing and tidy system. This is why, based on solid evidence, the MUTU workout program connects the dots between your abs, pelvic floor, alignment, mental health, breathing, rest, stretching, and nutrition. There’s no comparison between this system and just crunching away in terms of results.
- You’ll need to have surgery for diastasis recti if it doesn’t heal on its own.
In most cases, you won’t need surgery to heal diastasis recti. There are very good reasons to opt for surgery to help heal your DR (one of which is simply because you want to) and it can be a good option for some.
- Only unfit people get diastasis recti.
There are a number of factors impacting your chances of experiencing diastasis recti, some of which you can’t prepare or train for before pregnancy or birth.
- You can avoid diastasis recti by having a cesarean birth.
Though diastasis recti can sometimes occur while giving birth, most often it’s a result of longer-term pressure loading on your abdominal structure. For this reason, mums who have given birth via cesarean can have a separation in their abs, as well.
Ten myths busted not enough for ya, we have a few more here, too (told you this topic is often misunderstood). Check out our other article on diastasis myths debunked.