Diastasis, from Greek, meaning separation
Recti: refers to the rectus abdominis muscle (see illustration below)
Definition: Diastasis recti is a fairly common condition of pregnancy and postpartum in which the right and left halves of Rectus Abdominis muscle spread apart at the body’s mid line fascia, the linea alba.
Widening and thinning of the mid line tissue occurs in response the force of the Uterus pushing against the abdominal wall, in conjunction with pregnancy hormones that soften connective tissue. A mid line of more than 2 to 2.5 finger-widths, or 2 centimeters, is considered problematic. Diastasis recti can occur anytime in the last half of pregnancy but is most commonly seen after pregnancy when the abdominal wall is lax and the thinner mid line tissue no longer provides adequate support for the torso and internal organs.
A small amount of widening of the mid line happens in all pregnancies and is normal. Diastasis recti occurs in about 30% of all pregnancies. Some postpartum women’s mid lines close to less than 2 finger-widths spontaneously, but for many, the tissue remains too wide, causing problems.
Diastasis recti can also be seen in infants and adults with excessive abdominal visceral fat.
Diastatsis recti reduces the integrity and functional strength of the abdominal wall and can aggravate lower back pain and pelvic instability. Separation in a previous pregnancy significantly increases the probability, and severity, of the condition in subsequent pregnancies. Women expecting more than one baby, petite women, those with a pronounced sway back, or with poor abdominal muscle tone are at greatest risk. Genetics also plays a big role. For some women, it simply how their bodies respond to pregnancy.
Unfortunately, flurries of misconception swirl around diastasis recti and abdominal exercise during and after pregnancy in general. You’re likely to encounter a broad range of contradictory opinions and advice about how to recondition your abdominal wall and how to restore the midline after childbirth. Some of these assertions can cause unnecessary alarm, while another common piece of advice-do a lot of “crunches”-can actually worsen diastasis recti/abdominal separation.