Twenty-six percent of women have an abdominal separation, also known as diastasis recti, after having a baby. It is normal for the abdominals to separate during pregnancy in order to make room for a growing baby. Most women still have the separation one week after giving birth and should pretty well be closed by 6 weeks. However, there is still that 26% of women who still have a significant separation. If you are one of these women, this article is meant to be a guide to answer the question of what is the correct set of exercises to perform in order to help close the separation.
Research is somewhat conflicting on exercises that help close an abdominal separation. The first exercise that is suggested is called the drawing in exercise. This exercise includes laying on your back, knees bent, arms rested at your side. Take a deep breath in and as you breathe out sink your belly button to the floor. Your pelvis should rotate towards you. This exercise can be tricky as glute muscles tend to want to kick in. The movement should be coming from your abdominals, nowhere else.
The second exercise that helps close abdominals is the abdominal crunch. The first step is to lay in the position as the previous exercise. This time you will curl your neck up towards the ceiling; if your stomach tents or bulges do not raise your neck as high. Once you have mastered this exercise you can curl up even higher so that your shoulder blades are off the ground. Do not do a sit up.
These exercises can be very basic but once you master them you can then perform progressions which will engage your abdominals even more. Remember to take progressions slow. It takes time to heal and it will take time to build strength as well.
There are other exercises which engage abdominal muscles and are important to perform as well. Squats are great for incorporating not only abs but leg muscles as well. If squats bother your knees do not go as deep, keep your toes behind your knees, and your feet should be shoulder width apart. Good form is very important with squats and if you feel you are not getting it right, a wall sit works quite nicely.
Movements to avoid if you do have diastasis recti include, twisting, lifting heavy objects, any exercise that makes you bear down, and any exercise that causes your stomach to tent or bulge around the area of your belly button. The key to successfully closing the separation is to avoid exercises that cause more separation. The exercises above should be pain free and you should see some progress in 1-2 weeks.
Underlying issues with diastasis recti can include urinary incontinence, pelvic floor dysfunction, organ prolapse, hernias, and low back/pelvic pain. Not all of the symptoms occur with diastasis recti but are prevalent when the abdominal cage is not helping support the spine.
There are women and men who suffer from this diagnosis and do not always know what to do to help themselves. I hope this article is helpful in starting the healing process for your abdominals.