Real life anonymous question:
“Do I have Diastasis Recti?”
Now that we’ve debunked some myths about Diastasis Recti, let’s figure out how to tell if you even have Diastasis Recti.
Help Me Fix my Diastasis Recti!
I have seen plenty of women who were very concerned about their DR but when I evaluated them… they didn’t have it! These moms believed they must have it because of all the things they’ve seen on social media, or because another health care practitioner told them they do (without a proper exam), or a mom friend of theirs really struggled with it… and they are determined to fix it. But, for many, many women, Diastasis Recti simply resolves on its own. Yup, your body is pretty awesome!
It’s a normal part of pregnancy to develop Diastasis Recti and it’s a normal part of recovery for those muscles to return to their previous position.
It’s also normal to need some help reconnecting to your deep core muscles and learning how to use them efficiently again – whether you have Diastasis Recti or not. There is no one-size-fits-all here!
Also, side note, Diastasis Recti can occur in men too! Anyone with excessive abdominal fat around their organs (as opposed to under their skin) can develop Diastasis Recti. Really this information is helpful for many people!
So, let’s figure it out – “Do I have Diastasis Recti?”
If you’re a visual learning like me, I suggest checking out this video by Body Fit by Amy before you start reading my step by step guide. It’s an excellent and quick video tutorial on the basics of checking for a Diastasis Recti. I go into more detail about what to look for and take note of below, so don’t get lazy on me and only watch the video! (I really enjoyed the workout videos on Amy’s channel and used them during pregnancy so take a look around her channel for some awesome free fitness content!)
Let’s get started – the most common position to test yourself is laying on your back with your knees bent so your feet are flat on the ground.
Step 1 – Feel your belly
Before we start, simply feel your abdomen – what do you feel? Is your belly soft? It should be if you’re relaxed so if not… relax. Using 2 fingers and gentle pressure, press along the midline of your belly from your breast bone down past your belly button to your pubic bone. It should feel pretty soft, sometimes women report it’s tender and that’s okay.
I want you to know what your belly feels like when it’s relaxed.
Step 2 – Look at your belly
To check yourself for Diastasis Recti, it’s pretty easy. Simply raise your head up off the floor like you’re reaching your chin to the ceiling. Now, glance down at your abdomen. What do you see?
Doming along the midline?
Sinking in along the midline?
Your core muscles engaged?
Nothing out of the ordinary?
Take note of what you see and rest your head back down.
Step 3 – Fell your belly, again
Now, lift your head again, chin to the ceiling. Feel along your midline, from your breast bone to your belly button to your pubic bone. What do you feel?
Soft and squishy along the doming?
No resistance into the sinking area?
Firm resistance without any doming similar to the tip of your nose?
Take note of what you feel and rest your head back down.
If you feel firm resistance and there isn’t any doming or sinking in – you’re good to go. You don’t have Diastasis Recti (in this position, more about this soon!). You might not have wash board abs (I don’t know many women who do) so you will likely see your skin and other tissue bunch up, but you don’t have Diastasis Recti.
Soft doming? Very little resistance (like pressing on your cheek)? You may have Diastasis Recti.
You can see a clear dome or ridge along my midline.
Now, lift your head again and using your fingers, try to find the two sides of your abdominal muscles. Start just above your belly button, and with some gentle pressure, glide your fingers out to the side to find the borders of your 6 pack (rectus abdominus). You may need to press through your belly fat, baby weight, or extra skin (thank you children) to find the muscles. They are there, I promise.
What is the finger width distance between the borders? You may find different widths at different points along your midline, which is normal. Generally, I will see women with a few finger widths between the muscles, which is normal.
What would be really helpful is if you knew the distance before you had children and then after to know what your normal really is. You may have 3 finger width distance but what if you had that before kids? What if that’s your normal? We don’t know, so just take note of the distance.
If you haven’t put your head down yet, you can rest!
Now, let’s pull it all together and really figure out “Do I have Diastasis Recti?”
Before you raise your head, take a deep breath in and then exhale through pursed lips while performing a gentle pelvic floor contraction. Think about bringing your belly button in and up towards your nose, like a big “J”. You should feel your abdomen pull in like a corset – this is your deep abdominal muscle at work! Take a deep breath in again and let your belly totally relax. On your next exhale through pursed lips, lift your head up.
Glance down at your abdomen,
feel your midline,
and count the finger widths between your muscles.
It’s really common to hold your breath while you do this, make sure you keep breathing and take breaks if you need to.
If the soft doming flattens or the area of no resistance firms up, then you have Diastasis Recti that you are able to manage very well with the correct abdominal muscle “strategy”.
Performing my own Diastasis Recti check 18 months postpartum. You can see my fingers sink fairly deep into my abdomen at first. But with the correct abdominal contraction, the tissue between my abdominal muscles is much more firm.
And to be clear, you have Diastasis Recti that you can manage well while laying on your back – what about other positions… Like leaning back while sitting or standing? Or while doing your ab burner at the end of your workout? That’s what we’ll discuss in the next post. Because just checking for DR while laying on your back is like only washing one hand after you use the bathroom – incomplete and not always helpful.
I honestly hesitate to say you have Diastasis Recti because you can create the tension your body needs… but yes, technically, you have Diastasis Recti. Really, it becomes a non issue when you’re able to manage the pressure in your abdomen though. Think of Diastasis Recti on a continuum, as opposed to a yes or no answer.
With some practice, you should be able to contract your deep abdominal muscles without blowing out. Initially though, this cue is really helpful to find the muscle. However, it should not be used indefinitely because you would hyperventilate while exercising if you were constantly blowing out with every movement. Another topic for the next post!
If you lift your head again and nothing changes, you’ve got a little bit of work to do. This is easiest when done with a physical therapist or a trained fitness professional for individualized care – you can find one here: Pelvic Guru Directory. If there is no one in your area, there are plenty of PTs and fitness pros who offer virtual options so don’t let that stand in your way!
“Do I have Diastasis Recti?” You tell me.
The last post in this series is where we’ll discuss what to do next – whether you have Diastasis Recti while laying on your back… or not. We’ll also discuss why checking for Diastasis Recti while laying on your back is not a complete assessment and how to make that deep core connection more automatic.
Don’t forget to grab the password to my Freebie Library to get a copy of my “Busy Mom’s Guide to Diastasis Recti” below and check out the first post in the Diastasis Recti series here.