Real life anonymous question:
“I had a c-section so my core muscles were cut through! … Right?”
This is a super common misunderstanding about Cesarean sections and one I thought was true for a long time. But, believe it not, it’s not true! There are so many myths about Diastasis Recti, it’s hard to know where to go for the most up to date advice. We’ll debunk this myth and a few more of the top myths about Diastasis Recti!
I get questions about Diastasis Recti from brand new moms and veteran moms alike. It doesn’t matter how many kids or how old the kids are, moms are concerned about the dreaded Diastasis Recti.
They may have already asked their healthcare provider and were simply told “it’s normal, it will get better with diet and exercise”. But, they weren’t satisfied with this answer, and rightly so.
It seems like we are all wondering, “what the heck is up with my belly??”
They All Want The Same Thing
All of these women have the same goal – they want more information, they want to start taking some steps to figure out what’s going on, and they want to know how they can fix it.
If you haven’t already gotten the password to my Freebie Library – grab it now! You can downloaded my free “Busy Mom’s Quick Guide to Diastasis Recti” which is a great addition to this post.
I go over the basics of Diastasis Recti showing you exactly what it is and how to engage your deep core muscles – the first step to healing! If you want to skip all the fluff and just get down to business, download the 2 page PDF right now.
Debunking the Myths about Diastasis Recti
Before we get into what DR looks like and how to heal (what we’ll dive into next in this series of 3 posts on DR), I really want to clear up some of the most common myths about Diastasis Recti …
If you don’t deal with it right away, it will never get better.
That is simply not true.
I have worked with women who are newly postpartum or many years postpartum and both are able to benefit from proper muscle engagement and appropriate strengthening.
Diastasis Recti is the stretching of the tissue that connects the left and right side of your abdominal muscles. In can look different for each woman as displayed in the image above. When that tissue stretches it takes time for it to return to normal. How long? Upwards of 12-18 months! One reason for this time frame is that it takes this long for our bodies to synthesize collagen, a necessary component in tissue elasticity. It takes only 6-8 weeks for muscles to get significantly stronger so it’s not just a muscle issue, not at all.
I often look at skin to give me a clue as to what’s going on on the inside – if you are prone to stretch marks (it’s genetic mamas, no amount of oil or lotion will avoid stretch marks if it’s written in your genetics) then that tells me your skin is more rigid and doesn’t like too much change. The tissue in your abdomen is likely similar.
Your tissue may take a bit longer to return to normal in comparison to another woman who is not prone to stretch marks. This has nothing to do with your body size or fitness level before, during, or after pregnancy – it’s all genetics!!
What you did (or didn’t do) during pregnancy caused your DR.
Nope, another false one. But a great way for other people to make you feel guilty and sell you some bogus prenatal or postpartum fitness package! (I love a good fitness program and even used to teach a postpartum fitness class, it was great! It’s the fearful selling tactics that really grinds my gears.)
Diastasis Recti will occur in 100% of all pregnancies by 36 weeks gestation. And, often much sooner than that! I started to notice my DR around 28 weeks with my first and around 15 weeks with my second. You can certainly learn proper breathing and lifting mechanics to help support your core during pregnancy, but no amount of belly breathing or abdominal strengthening is going to avoid it.
The only thing that I can think of that would really make it worse is if you repeatedly, over and over again, stressed your abdominal tissue to its end range throughout your pregnancy. So, if you did ab burners everyday during pregnancy and could see that dome or ridge along your midline and it felt hard and firm, that has the capacity to make it worse. But, I don’t know anyone who has done that.
If you had a c-section, the surgeon cuts through your muscles so your Diastasis Recti is even worse.
I used to think having a cesarean section meant the surgeon cut through all of your abdominal muscles. I was appalled thinking about the muscle damage! It was only in the last few years that I realized this is a myth…
When you have a c-section, the surgeon cuts through the tissue that connects the abdominal muscles (called the linea alba) and then pushes this tissue and the muscles to the side to access the uterus.
That doesn’t mean you should be good to go after a c-section without any help, not at all! It’s still major abdominal surgery, and ideally you would see a pelvic floor PT after to help with rehab. It just means your muscles were not cut or dissected. Your core muscles were stretched and thinned during pregnancy making it a lot hard for them to work efficiently. Learning how to re-engage your core is key to getting those muscle to be efficient again!
Here is a great video by Fayetteville Pelvic Health and Wellness with a visual representation of the layers cut through to get to baby.
Wearing a belly band or corset for months/years after birth will help keep the muscles together.
This is one of the myths about Diastasis Recti that really makes me cringe when I see it – wearing an abdominal support garment longer than 2-3 weeks after giving birth does not help you one bit.
I love a good support garment in the first few weeks because it helps with swelling and gives you some external support while you’re healing. However, after those initial few weeks, your muscles need to start working on their own again.
If you continue to wear the external support, your progress will be much slower. Get your muscles to work a bit, it’s good for them! (And by work a bit, I mean walking, standing, sitting – all the things we do in day to day life that requires your core to support an upright posture.)
If you notice any coning/doming then you must stop what you’re doing immediately.
This myth has only recently been debunked!
In the last year or so, Diastasis Recti recommendations have shifting significantly. We used to tell women to avoid all coning or doming along their midline (looks like a ridge or little mountain along the midline of your abdomen with leaning back or performing abdominal exercises).
The newest guidelines tell us that doming isn’t terrible as long as you can re-engage your core to flatten the dome or if the dome is soft to the touch (not hard and firm like the ab burner example above). If it’s soft to the touch, you are not stretching the tissue at all, it’s just get gently pressed on.
Myths about Diastasis Recti: DEBUNKED!
These myths about Diastasis Recti are fairly common in the Mommy World, I’ve heard them all at least a few times. If you have a mom friend who is worried about Diastasis Recti, please share this with her to get the word out!
If you have a question of your own – I’d love to answer it! Send me an email at email@example.com or send me a DM on social @fit.moms.blog.