What is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis Recti is when the abdominal muscles in your stomach separate during pregnancy. Don’t panic! This happens during the third trimester of all pregnancies as your body makes room for your growing baby. Here are some exercises to avoid if you notice abdominal separation:
Crunches: When doing crunches in your third trimester, you will likely notice your stomach going into a cone shape – this is the shape you want to avoid! The coning is a visual clue that you do have diastasis. Continuously doing crunches and other exercises that cause your belly to cone can make diastasis worse.
Downward Dog: As your stomach muscles separate, it can become difficult to keep your transverse abdominal muscles flexed correctly. To protect your stomach from increased stretching or bulging when doing certain yoga poses you need to be able to flex belly button to spine. (Try it, it sounds weird but you can feel your belly pull in.) You should not be doing downward dog if you are unable to keep your transverse abdominals pulled in, as this can increase separation. Again, look for coning.
Planks: Planks should be avoided for the similar reasons as downward dog. Gravity may pull your organs and baby down towards the gap, putting pressure on the area and potentially widening the gap or causing umbilical hernias.
Leg Lifts: Leg lifts and exercises that require you to use your abs to move your legs up vertically or over your head create a similar effect on the stomach as crunches. These exercises create a sort of ‘change purse’ effect. Imagine if you unzip a change purse and push the two ends together, the center will open out. The same is essentially happening when you pull the lower and upper parts of the abdomen together.
Reminder: These exercises are good to avoid during pregnancy once you or your doctor notice abdominal separation. That is not to say you can never go back to doing these exercises. However, you should wait until your muscles have come closer back together. If you find that your diastasis is severe please don’t get discouraged. There are several programs and physical therapy exercises that can be used to strengthen your core and heal your stomach muscles.