How to Identify and Fix Diastasis Recti

Diastasis Recti - What it is and how to fix it

Oh motherhood… When we enter the amazing journey of carrying, birthing and raising a child, we learn many terms that we’d be previously unable to define… Like perineal tear, sitz bath, and for many of us, unfortunately, also diastasis recti or (DRA).

What the Heck is Diastasis Recti?

From a medical perspective, (according to the Mayo Clinic):

During pregnancy, the growing uterus stretches the muscles in the abdomen. This can cause the two large parallel bands of muscles that meet in the middle of the abdomen to separate — a condition called diastasis recti or diastasis recti abdominis. Diastasis recti might cause a bulge in the middle of the abdomen where the two muscles separate.(1)

In mom terms, it is that frustrating post-baby pooch that doesn’t go away when the baby weight does and often leads to the “when are you due” question while you are holding your two year old. (Not speaking from experience or anything *ahem*)

It is the thing that can keep jeans fitting incorrectly even when you are the same size/weight as pre-pregnancy, and at the extreme, diastasis can be connected to abdominal pain and even pelvic problems.

From my personal experience, I’m grateful to friends who first told me about the condition years ago and shared the resources that helped them fix it.

See, post baby pooch and the pee-when-you-sneeze syndrome that can accompany it, are not often topics of everyday conversation among moms. We share advice on potty training our children, but are more hesitant to open up about the abdominal, urinary, and pelvic problems that can come postpartum for many of us.

In fact, there is a good chance that many of us struggle with this condition in some way, since statistically 98+% of women have a diastasis after delivery (2). It seems that diastasis can be more common the more pregnancies a woman has (I can attest to this) or if she has had multiples or already has an underlying abdominal problem.

It is also important to note that while diastasis recti is more common in pregnant women, it is actually related to internal abdominal pressure, which pregnancy increases, but not specifically *caused* by pregnancy. For this reason, men and children can suffer from a separation as well, especially after a surgery or injury. (This video explains more)

Thankfully, diastasis recti has gotten some recognition lately, and there are now some great resources that can help remedy a slight diastasis.

Since I’m currently carrying my sixth baby, I’m going to be prepared postpartum this time and I’m passing on the wonderful advice I received that helped me discover my own diastasis…

How I Discovered My Diastasis…

During my pregnancy with my first child, I continued doing abdominal specific exercises like crunches because I thought it would actually help my body stay fit and recover more quickly after pregnancy.

Turns out, it did the opposite, and I noticed after that pregnancy that my stomach didn’t ever regain it’s previous “flatness” (again with the medical terms…). I also learned from my personal trainer brother-in-laws that exercises like crunches are not even that effective at increasing core strength. They recommend body weight exercises, kettlebells, and pull-ups, and their six-packs seem to speak to their effectiveness, but even these exercises can do more harm than good during pregnancy.

After I learned what diastasis was, I completed a self-check to see if I had it. According to Fit2b:

 diastasis is a gap of more than 2.7 centimeters between the ab muscles

This is often documented by a gap of 2-3 fingers in an at-home check. As any pregnant woman who has been checked in labor can attest, “centimeter” measurements can vary greatly by finger size of the person checking, so this isn’t an exact science but a rough way to gauge a potential problem.

This article has excellent instructions and a video that explains how to self-check for a diastasis, and their graphic shows the potential types of abdominal separation that can occur:

what is diastasis recti

Emily of Holistic Squid explains the basic steps of checking for a diastasis:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor
  2. Place your fingers with the palm facing you on your belly button
  3. Lift your head and neck just slightly off the floor while you press down with your fingers. If there is a gap, that is the diastasis
  4. Conduct the same test just above your belly button and just below the belly button (as the gap can measure differently in these places) (3)

This video also gives a visual demonstration of the process:

What to Do About It?

Unfortunately, dealing with diastasis recti isn’t as simple and straightforward as many natural remedies are.

From what I’ve read and the programs I’ve used, many smaller separations can be helped at home with specialized exercises (these are what helped me) but severe cases can sometimes need a physical therapist or even surgery.

For me, exercises were enough in past pregnancies, though I had to rely on YouTube videos and exercises that friends had shared. Now, there are several specific programs created by DRA experts, and I’ll be using these after this little one arrives. In fact, many of you have recommended these programs in comments and in social media (if you’ve used either one, please let me know in the comments and share your experience!)

Fit2b: A family-friendly workout membership that has specific videos for diastasis. I’m planning to use this one postpartum, but there are also some great resources for children’s fitness and the whole family.

MuTu: A 12- week focused program that addresses Diastasis as well as other pelvic health issues.

The Tummy Team: A great resource for abdominal splints and programs designed to help even severe diastasis issues.

There are also some great YouTube videos that help with the basics of diastasis recti repair. According to Pre and Post Natal Corrective Exercise Specialist Lorraine (who runs the top pregnancy exercise website in New Zeland), breathing exercises and isolating the transverse abdominal muscles are the firs step in resolving the issue.

She explains the breathing and muscle isolation exercises in this video:

Diastasis: What to Avoid

As with many aspects of nutrition, sometimes what you avoid can be just as important as what you do…

Sources agree that many exercises specifically targeted at core strength should actually be avoided if a person has an abdominal separation. Movements like crunches, sit-ups and planks can actually make things worse instead of better:

Doing a standard crunch or sit-up is generally not recommended for postpartum women, especially when we know a diastasis recti or DRA is present. This is because the way a crunch is generally performed has the effect of severely increasing intra abdominal pressure, pushing your organs outwards against or through the gap, and downwards onto the pelvic floor – directions you really don’t want your organs forcefully heading.(4)

In fact, even if you don’t have diastasis recti, recent research suggests that isolation exercises like sit-ups and crunches are hard on the back and not effective anyway (Harvard Health agrees).

Diastasis Recti and Pregnancy

This is the question I’ve always had…

Since the large majority of women have a DRA after delivering a baby, and since pregnancy and pushing make the problem worse, is there anything that can be done to help stop the problem to begin with or avoid it during pregnancy?

I was unaware until this pregnancy that it is actually possible to check for and work on a separation during pregnancy and it may even be easier to detect at this time.

I found this Q&A about diastasis in pregnancy very helpful. In short, pregnancy doesn’t actually cause the separation, abdominal pressure does, but pregnancy of course often contributes to this pressure.

There have been cases of women who were able to reverse a separation during pregnancy, and there are steps that can help during pregnancy, including:

Does a Splint or Binder help?

Sources seem to be divided on this subject. From my personal experience, a split helped a lot immediately post delivery and for a few weeks in conjunction with approved exercises once I was allowed to do them.

My midwife in past pregnancies and the Fit2b program recommend tummy splinting, especially in the short time after delivery. The Tummy Team website has some great articles and resources that address the potential benefits of splinting.

The MuTu system offers a different perspective, suggesting that splinting does not actually help the abdominal muscles reattach and that it may impede the body’s ability to resolve the issue correctly.

With research and sources divided, this is an issue that I personally spoke to my own midwife about before making a decision. Like I said, in the past, a splint greatly helped my postpartum pain and healing, but I used it in conjunction with exercises and had good results.

When to Seek Professional Help?

I have several friends who benefitted from seeing a physical therapist for a short time to address their specific diastasis recti problems. I haven’t done this personally, but absolutely would if I had a severe separation. To find a therapist who specializes in DRA problems, go to The American Physical Therapy Association’s website and choose “women’s health”.

Recommended Diastasis Resources

Do you have diastasis? What helped you? Please share your experience in the comments as this issue seems to affect many of us!

Diastasis Recti is a condition of the abdominal muscles that can occur after pregnancy. Find out how to know if you have it and what to do.

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Reader Comments

  1. and if you’ve got layers of fat over those muscles, how are you supposed to know?

    • Even with fat over the muscles, you are able to feel the diastasis when it is checked like the videos demonstrate. It might be difficult to assess yourself as you’ve never done it before, but you can get an idea of where you are to 1. see if you have it and 2. to mark your progress as you work to decrease the DR.

    • You push REALLY deep!

  2. I have found fit2b (website) a great resource for helping DR before, during, and after pregnancy.

  3. After 7 babies, I started *blush* leaking … I found out from my Midwife that I had a d.r. and it often causes pelvic floor problems. I am so thankful that after much internet searching, I found a couple of sites that are all about safely, gently healing your d.r. and getting rid of that tummy. They call it ‘tummy safe exercises” . Best site was fit2be, full of information and exercises to heal my d.r. When I follow the advice, I don’t leak 🙂

    • that’s awesome advice. i’m going to check out that website. thank you

  4. Along with seeing a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor issues, Fit2b has been the best resource for me to help heal my diastasis.

  5. Tummy Team has a great online program for healing mild to severe diastasis recti. She is awesome, helpful, and does Skype sessions in addition to her program. My gap closed by 3 fingers in the 8 weeks I did her program! She also touches on pelvic floor health and it’s connection to the core. 🙂

  6. I have been using the Tupler Method to heal my diastasis, and it is working so far. But mine is still quite deep, which I understand to mean my connective tissues are still weak and not holding my stomach in very well. Even though my gap has gone from 4 finger widths to 2, I still haven’t lost any inches around my waist. Do you have any advice for how diet can affect the strength of the tissues? Thanks!

    • Hi, I am a PT with special interest in DR and core strength. I am not yet familiar with the Tupler Technique (I have been meaning to check it out), but have personally done the Tummy Team program. That is great that your gap is closing! A few factors on why it might still be deep:
      1. You might be checking the DR too often. Check once a month max, and never during your period. If you are sticking your fingers in there, the baby connective tissue forming gets disrupted.
      2. You might be doing things that cause a pushing out on your tummy. Not pushing out through your abdomen is 50% of healing your DR. Be mindful of picking things up, bending over, pushing/bearing down when on the toilet. You should be engaging your transverse (belly button pulled to spine and keeping yourself upright, squatting down to pick things up and not bending over. Watch our for fitness activities you are not ready for yet because your core is not strong enough yet (running, jumping) and never do crunches, situps, v-sits, etc. Watch our for baby wearing for too long.

      As for diet, make sure you are eating gelatin rich foods and lots of veggies, which will all help with tissue healing.

      Good luck! And it might be that your gap will start to become more shallow as you continue to heal. For reference, mine is a 0 shallow on top (b/w ribs and belly button), 1.5 medium in the center, and 1 shallow on the bottom. I think this is about as good as I can get! The belly button is the weakest point in all of us, and I had a small hernia before I started this healing journey as well.

      • Thank you for this info. I think I really need to see a PT who specializes in DR and also hernias. I realized I had a hernia about 3 months after I had my daughter. She is now 2.5 and I think the hernia has gotten a little larger. I know I got the hernia because I have a weak core, I have always been weak in that area but I had no idea how to strengthen it other than crunches and those never seemed to do much. Now I know why, its because the problem was much deeper! It seems I am doing everything wrong! I would love to heal my hernia without surgery and close the gap. My gap isn’t really that large if I am measuring correctly its 2-3 (fingers) in the center. Also, my tailbone really hurts when I try to lie flat on my back. I have a feeling this is related to all thats going on in the core area. I guess my question is – Where do I start? Should I try the tummyteam program and see what happens or look up a PT first?

        • I forgot to mention that I am 20 weeks pregnant!

          • Congrats on the pregnancy! It does not change too much about how to heal you core, except that you really need to help yourself! Also, your connective tissue will get stretchier, and with your belly growing, don’t expect to close the gap all the way. Also, as you get your core stronger and alignment better, you will also be more challenged because your belly is growing. So it might feel like you aren’t improving much, but you will be. (and my bias… The tummy team does have a prenatal program that addresses labor and delivery and post partum core and pelvic floor concerns in addition to all the strengthening, alignment, etc.)

          • Gretchen- I would try the tummyteam program, I don’t think you’ll be dissapointed. You could try calling them to see if you could get a discount of 10 or 15% off- just say you just learned about the program through this blog, on a really tight budget, you’re 5 months pregnant and can’t wait for a sale and also really would benefit from this program.

            What part of the country are you in? You might be able to find a PT in your area as well to help you, that would probably be covered all or in part by your insurance (depending upon your deductible, copays, etc.)

            I am guessing that the pain you are feeling is related to your joints loosening up from the relaxin. Some people get really loose. But if you were to engage your core before getting up, perhaps that would help? Your pelvic bones maybe would then be stabilized and not shift as much.

            Jenn

        • Gretchen, you may not have a hernia. People frequently say that when they just have a DR and they see the long alien looking bulge when their belly pushes out. The gap doesn’t need to be very wide- mine was not more than 3, but it was deep and I had an actual small hernia that I had surgically repaired before pregnancy- but the diastasis wasn’t fixed and the DR increased during pregnancy. Then I found the Tummy Team! It can be hard to feel how deep the DR is, so don’t stress about determining that.

          When you talk about your tailbone hurting when you lie flat on your back, are you lying on your back with your knees bent or legs straight? Are you just lying there, or are you trying to do a specific exercise, “tighten the core”, etc?

          I would do the Tummy Team program, but I am highly biased as I have had success with it and I am learning the methods to help my own patients. It can be hard to find a PT who is trained well in DR- I did not learn about this in PT school and I graduated in 2009 from a good school. But you can certainly ask or call around to see if someone in your area has extra training! There is a lot of growing awareness. The Tummy Team is a really excellent program. It addresses the movement patterns like getting out of bed, squatting down, how you help your child during the day. It teaches you how to engage your core and increase the strength and how to make sure you are not activating other muscles instead, like your glutes, thighs, shoulders. You will slowly build your strength up, with the difficulty level increasing as you are able to, and learn how to engage, strengthen, and relax your pelvic floor. You’ll stretch tight muscles and improvement your posture/alignment so that you core can work better. I should mention that all the “exercises” for the core are done with your sitting or standing activities during the day, which teaches your core to work throughout the day just like it needs to. This isn’t something you do for 5 minutes at the gym and then forget about the rest of the day. Then you are transitioned to fitness exercise that is safe for you core. The whole program does take time to do and focus to remember to work on it throughout the day, but is very doable. Kelly does recommend splinting; it is really helpful at first, and you will wean yourself away from it as your strength improves.

          I would give some advice for how to start healing your core, but there is so much to work on (like everything I mentioned above), that it’s better to work with someone in person or via skype and/or use a good program. Even the “pull your navel to the spine” advice is just the tip of the iceberg for someone who is weak, has poor posture, and is compensating with other muscles and maybe with a habit of “sucking the stomach in.”

          Good luck! I am here to answer other questions.

          And to Wellness Mama- thank you so much for your very comprehensive post, which will help so many women put their bodies back together so that they can better help their families and do their good work in the world. My goal is for every person in my town to have a strong core, for every pregnant and post partum woman in my town to be educated not just in DR but all the effects of a weak core.

          • Hi Jenn – thank you for replying back! I visited another commented site below I think her name is Sheryl Wilson and I watched her video on how to sit and do an exercise. The middle of my back was aching within a minute! I am so weak! This is nuts! I have always been an athlete too! I may check out the tummyteam program. Im kind of on a tight budget but Im also desperately needing to be healed and I need to know that this works before I go ahead with it. I hope that I can work with someone on skype because I want someone to tell me what I am doing wrong, if/when I am out of alignment.
            Im pretty positive I have a hernia because I had 2 doctors confirm it but sometimes doctors are wrong…I have a round ball that pops out above my navel whenever my abs are engaged/crunched. I try to hard not to crunch when I do everyday movements but there are so many things that involve abs! I dont want to avoid crunching forever! Thus, I need to be healed and I need to have proper form to stay in shape which I am totally prepared to do for the rest of my life! Just trying to wash dishes at the end of the day is exhausting on my entire back and its no wonder, its been doing all the work all day long. Oh also whenever I sit on a hard surface the middle of my pubic arch, symphisis, crest area (basically the area right under my vagina) HURTS! It happened with my first pregnancy too. I stand up and try to walk and I have to walk bow legged until it wears off. So annoying. My tailbone will hurt in the same way, doesnt matter what I am doing, when I am laying flat, knees bent, whatever as soon as I try to stand up its causing me pain and I have to wait for it to subside.
            Thank you again for all of your help!
            I really appreciate the feedback!

      • Did your hernia heal from doing DR exercises? I have a small umbilical hernia and I have about 2.5 finger width gap from my DR. I am supposed to have surgery to fix the hernia.

        • Hi Meagn, Unfortunately a hernia can’t repair itself. A hernia is a tear in the linea alba, while the DR is just a stretching of the tissue, which can heal. I had the hernia repaired before I knew that I had a DR and that the DR could be healed. With a small hernia, it is not necessary to have it repaired unless it really bothers you. Learning about how to heal the DR and what contributes to the DR most especially, can keep your hernia stable so that it doesn’t get worse. A 2.5 finger wide gap is not bad! That’s probably what I had, but with the hernia it means the gap is deep. I would recommend reading Katy Bowman’s book Diastasis Recti to learn about how to stop doing the things that caused the hernia and DR in the first place. (I am doing her 2 year certification program and am familiar with the material in the book, in addition to working on training with Kelly Dean, the PT who runs the Tummy Team). If you feel like you need additional strengthening, I would recommend the Tummy Team as it has more specific strengthening exercises, but I feel that program is best for people who are really needing a lot of rehab. With a small DR- even with a small hernia- Katy’s book addresses what you need and it’s a lot less expensive than other rehab programs. She also addresses strengthening in her biomechanics way.

          Good luck!

  7. It is important to check also the depth of the diastasis, it is very indicative of the degree of ‘trouble’ you’re in. I don’t have a large diastasis, but I have a very slender frame and people kept asking me if I am pregnant. But my diastasis was very deep. I bought the program from befitmom, I think she knows very well what she’s talking about and the price for the dvd has gone done a lot recently and it’s much cheaper then other websites. I am a busy working mom with a husband doing a long commute, so my progress goes in ‘pulses’ rather then continuously, because of lack of time. My diastasis is not so deep anymore and my belly much flatter, but there is still a lot to do. And I am 2cm taller then I have ever been…which goes to show that my alignment was really not great, but the program has fixed it. I really see this program as an anti-age program and plan to use it for a long time as it tackles the whole body (though I am sure this is the case with many other good programs).

    • Thank you, this is really helpful, I will check out the program by befitmom. Thanx also Wellness Mama as I didnt realise I had this issue, my baby is nearly 3 and although I worked out regular my tummy would always bulge and I struggled with my posture. I find running and wearing corsets help and wrapping with exercise bands around my waste help with back pain. Seems like I have a journey ahead of me, but at least now I know what I am doing.

      • Hi Adora, I am a PT myself, I was able to heal my DR with the Tummy Team and am currently training with the PT who created the program (Kelly Dean) so that I can help others heal themselves. I also am doing a certification with Katy Bowman, who is a biomechanist and has good info on pelvic floor, posture, alignment, etc.

        Regarding using a corset or an exercise band and how these decrease your back pain- if your core is weak, then you can get back pain because your back muscles are trying to compensate for a weak core. Essentially you are splinting yourself (like as would be done with an abdominal binder) to compensate for a week transverse abdominis. If you improve your core strength, and very specifically your transverse abdominis functioning, you will not have back pain anymore and you will not need to use the corset and exercise bands around your waist. Running is also hard on your core when it is weak. Better to get it strong first! You would certainly benefit from the online program that I did at thetummyteam.com. She is having a big sale around Thanksgiving if you want to wait a bit to get a better price. Good luck!

        • Thank you for your reply. I will look up the course you recommend. But I did find that a slow jog up and down the road for 10 minutes every other day for a week did actually help me. I saw my abs flatten quite a bit. I was doing body weight training for over a year and found planks and sit ups so easy, I had amazing muscle tone in my back and the rest of my body but my stomach bulged. I had a bulging 2 pack with definition on the sides!!!!! Now I know why. I like corsets and waist trainers as the help me to stand up straight and not hunch and will continue to use them (not abusively!!!) But I need to work on a new exercise programme to heal this situation.
          I did read what you said to another woman about how to bend etc, also very helpful, thanx again.

        • Also I looked up the tummy team, thanx for the link and they recommend “Splints” and the ones they sell are alot like the ones I had, plus the lotion potions, well I feed my skin with coconut oil, mango and palm butter so I hardly have loose skin issues or stretch marks after 3 kids. Also there free exercises on you tube or I may get a dvd from Amazon, way cheaper. But I was encouraged that I am on the right track.
          One of my gym buddies told me about postnatal tummy wrapping that it was standard in parts of Europe and Africa. I think every woman should know about this and now thanx to Wellness Mama and people like you I can look forward to a flat tum and a strong core without back pain.

          • For an upright posture, you may find this gizmo helpful: http://www.iposture.com/ It vibrates if you slouch, but I personally find it too surprising when it goes off. I feel like I just got poked with a tazer! I do better with a timer to check in with my posture. I also find a mirror nearby a helpful reminder and good feedback. And building the habit of sitting up tall when first sitting down in a chair, in the car, etc. I have always found the hardest part of changing my alignment to be the diligence in remembering to check and adjust it 40 times a day!

            As for the splints that are sold, many people benefit from a splint. There is no best splint out there- practitioners have their preferred ones and some people need a longer one, stiffer one, etc. With the lotion-potions that are sold, this is a newer item that they sell, and some people’s skin needs some TLC. Personally, my skin bounced back fine from pregnancy- I also used some specific oils and I think it helped! But my belly did not get huge either, so it stretched less.

            I hope you are healing well!

            Your comment on being really toned and lean but with a DR reminds me of someone I met in my town last year- this woman was very fit, lean, and had a 6 pack but had about a 3 finger wide and deep DR with the characteristic alien looking bulge running from above to below the belly button. She was really strong but her connective tissue was stretched, and she was doing things to push out on it, like crunches, kick boxing, and belly dancing.

            Yes, you can learn some exercises and those can be free or cheap, and for some people this may be enough, but for majority of people there are many pieces to the puzzle that need to be addressed, and this is why many people complain the physical therapist (who likely does not know about proper DR healing) did not help them or that a certain program or technique helped somewhat or only for a while. Even with a good program, you have to follow through on all the points as DR is a whole body problem, not just a core weakness or caused by pregnancy.

            Something else to consider is that your DR gap may be closed if the TA is engaged- which is the case with me- but if the TA is relaxed then my gap is about 1.5 or 2 finger widths at the navel with a moderate depth and closed above and below the navel. I have to be careful that I am not doing an exercise that is too challenging, or my TA cannot maintain the contraction and then there is force going through the DR and that will put stress on the connective tissue and can stretch or deepen it again. Challenging things for me are way too many planks, or pushups when my form starts to break down, or hanging from a bar doing knees to elbows, etc.

            It is quite possible that your TA strength is good, but you need to work on the things that are preventing the connective tissue from knitting together and staying together, similar to needing to splint a broken bone while it heals. This is where splinting, exercise modification (like very gentle exercise only), and looking at not bending over during your activities comes in. You have the strength to do things that may be compromising the connective tissue that wants to heal (if given the right circumstances). As an example, you could have the fitness to go jog with a broken collarbone, but jogging is going to jostle the fracture ends to prevent the collarbone from healing. You may have the strength to do a plank, but if there is a gap there, then the connective tissue is being stressed. Or, maybe when you do a plank your TA engages fully and you have no gap, but you sit slouched. Or you are doing a challenging exercise like knee to elbow in plank where maybe your TA cannot maintain the contraction fully and/or your stomach is “crunching” and this puts pressure on the line alba and can stretch the connective tissue. Does this make sense?

            How are you doing now?

            Jenn

  8. A great, comprehensive article Katie! Definitely one I’ll be sharing with my own audience, as diastasis recti is such a common occurrence among women (and something I’m asked about all the time).

  9. I had muscle separation of 5-6″ along with an umbilical hernia after three pregnancies. I only gained 20-30 lbs total during my pregnancies, but still managed to have major muscle separation. I worked with a trainer and unfortunately ended up with a big bulge of a stomach. I also was experiencing major lower back pain. After much consideration and getting tired of people asking me if I was pregnant, I decided to have a tummy tuck. I don’t recommend this to everyone, but I researched it thoroughly and felt it was best for me. My hernia was repaired, 1 1/2 lbs. of skin was taken off my ab. area and I got my figure back. The best result was no more back pain and muscles that I can actually work with and see results. I wish I had more information and someone knowledgeable to help me with exercises, but I have no regrets about the surgery.

    • Jane, good for you! Even with healing a DR and getting the core engaging, alignment proper, and some tummy cremes, people may have extra skin that can be more fully addressed with surgery. It sounds like you had a really good outcome. Generally the surgery just addresses a symptom and not the cause, but it sounds like you had other symptoms dissipate as well. I wonder in your case if getting the muscles back into their proper place let them start working again. It is possible to get a DR even with having a hernia stitched back together (I am evidence of this! I have always been slim but had a DR and hernia before pregnancy, then DR worsened with pregnancy despite gaining only #17), so know that if you still have or develop any signs of core or pelvic floor weakness, have a body that isn’t aligned (rib flare, pelvis tucked), or are doing things to put pressure through the front of the abdomen (sucking the stomach in, bearing down with BM’s, crunching movements while sitting or in exercise), you can develop a DR again. But now you know where to go for help! 🙂

      People with diastases of 5-6 fingers have healed themselves (ok, maybe down to a 2 finger width but that is pretty good!) but it takes time and diligence. But then you are addressing the things that caused the DR in the first place.

  10. My friend just got a “Mommy Makeover” (boob job and tummy tuck) to fix her diastasis. The tummy tuck did the job.

  11. Great article, Katie! This is a topic that is near to my heart, as I’ve struggled with a large diastasis for years, after giving birth to 5 children. None of my midwives seemed to know how to help me heal this, so I just thought I was stuck with it. Finally, I found some exercises and a splint that would help me heal (the splint is important to help heal the connective tissue). I’m still in process with healing, but I’m getting closer, thankfully!

  12. As a mom of 5 and personal trainer, I always check my clients who are moms. What surprises me is that they tell me their OBs never checked! Careful abdominal exercises gets great results. As far as “leaking” goes, I suggest finding a physical therapist or trainer who specializes in pelvic floor/women’s health.

  13. I never knew such a thing existed! I wonder if I suffered from this as a result of my pregnancy. My son is almost two. Can this have healed itself now or should I check to see if it is an issue I may have with losing my pooch? Thank you for sharing this helpful information!

    • I am wondering the same thing. My last baby as of yet is 18months. Is this something that can only be addressed early after delivery or anytime?

      • This can absolutely be addressed long after the fact of having a baby. Personally, after having studied the various techniques out there (Bowman, Tupler/Tummy Team, Mutu), I find that they all have great points but none fully address the entire person health which is crucial for healing. For instance, what we wear can hugely impact our circulation and therefore influence how quickly and thoroughly we heal. My favorite and the most effective approach is a Biblical one coupled with scientific evidence…utilizing specific natural remedies plus specialized exercises for long-term whole health.

        • I am in the same boat (youngest is almost 2 years old). I am interested in more details about your answer. Could you expand? Thanks!

          • Hi Bek, happy to try to explain a bit further…the thing with DRA is that it is evidence of something else going on rather than being THE problem. It’s a symptom. The secret really is that we need to follow God’s simple remedies for whole health and then not only can DRA heal but so can a whole host of other issues that may have seemed unrelated. What I believe the true issue to be is that several of God’s natural health principles aren’t being followed which leads to the degradation of the body which has to manifest somewhere as illness or disease. So that begs the question…what ARE God’s natural health principles? Thankfully, He laid them all out for us at Creation and throughout the Bible. A great place to start is at the beginning. Check out Genesis chapters 1 and 2. Notice what all God created BEFORE He created humans. Those are the things necessary to life, health, and comfort and that is one reason why He made them all first. Of course science has served to confirm that and helps us to know the specifics as far as how to apply these principles to modern life, but really it doesn’t have to be complicated, and anything that says it does is not based in Truth. For example, water. It is necessary to life and we know we must drink enough of it for optimal health. There are also specific external hydrotherapy treatments it can be used for that can help speed healing and boost immunity. So not only can it be used as a preventive but curatively as well. Yet it is something simple…just water. Anyway, I’m happy to walk you through the rest but think I’ve taken up enough space here. 🙂

  14. I’m doing the Tupler Technique and I’m slowly healing. I plan to have another child, but even after that, I’d like to avoid plastic surgery if possible. I don’t care about stretch marks, I just want the DR and extra weight to go away.

  15. I’ve had this for about 12 to 17 years. I never even heard of this until last week. If I do these exercises will it still work for me because of how many years ago that it happened?

  16. At my 3 week post partum Ob-Gyn visit after delivering my first baby (6 #, 3 oz.) 21 years old, I asked my doctor when my muscles would start going back together and he informed me they would never go back naturally and that I would eventually need surgery to sew them back together. Of course, that wasn’t what I wanted to hear and didn’t believe him. Despite staying fit, after 2 more babies and 9 years later, I decided to get a tummy tuck. It did, “fix” the problem of my muscles and abdomen bulging and got rid of my sagging skin. I do wish I had had the knowledge and patient dedication to work on repairing my abdominal muscles as you describe in the post. I will never know if this would have worked to my satisfaction. I hope it works for many of the women reading your post, Katie. I am happy with the results of my surgery but it would have been great if I could have, “fixed the problem” without surgery. Great information!

  17. I would really like to encourage all women with Diastasis Recti and Pelvic Floor Disorders to check out the Katy Says blog and podcast. Katy is a Biomechanist and her specialty is DR and PFD. She has several books out and a new one will be out in a couple months specifically on DR. DR and PFD are whole body issues that have to do with body alignment and the way you move or don’t move throughout your day, week, month. I’m going to include a link to one of her many blogs about this. Please check it out!

    http://www.katysays.com/under-pressure-part-1/

      • Katy, I want to add that The Tummy Team programs fit in perfectly with Katy Bowman’s lifestyle and movement recommendations. The Tummy Team is a rehab program for people who really need remedial help, though it will help people whether they are in very sad shape or just needing a little help. I am going through Katy Bowman’s 2 year certification program and also apprenticing with Kelly Dean at the The Tummy Team because I want to teach all the great info that they have to share!

    • I came to comment to leave Katy’s information too but thought I check to see if she was mentioned already! Katy is pretty awesome definitely look into her work.

  18. Katie, thank you a million times for not only blogging about this, but also providing useful links and videos. I have DR from my last pregnancy, which I discovered about 2 years post partum – I didn’t know why I still looked pregnant! I’m pregnant again and plan to really educate myself and prep my body for birth and preventing/healing DR as much as possible.

    • Allison, check out the prenatal program from Tummy Team. You can heal your DR, improve your comfort and strength in your current pregnancy, and get good info on how to push your baby out without damaging your core and pelvic floor, plus recover faster after your pregnancy. A lot of women get DR and pelvic floor problems from pushing for too long in labor’s pushing phase.

  19. I cannot believe I never knew of this, perhaps I heard mention of it but never payed attention… After the simple self check I found out that I have it..Thank you for all your informative posts and for this especially helpful one!

  20. Thank you so much for posting about this! I think I have it vertically! My baby is 15 1/2 months old and I have been training hard but doing a lot of push ups and planks. I don’t think I can give up the push ups though….they are such a good full body exercise. I will have to watch the videos to learn more.

    • Grace – if you don’t mind my suggestion, when you do your pushups, just make sure to pay attention to your stomach muscles. Keep your belly pulled in towards your spine the entire time, and if you can’t, make the pushups easier for now until you get strong enough to do that. That may mean doing them on your knees or even against a wall. Trust me – after a pelvic fracture and umbilical hernia, I guarantee you IT IS NOT WORTH IT. I thought I was so strong and impressive doing pushups while 9 months pregnant with my second. I saw the coning (which was my organs protruding because my abs had separated and nothing was holding them in) but had no idea what it was at the time, or that it was problematic. Pushups and planks are GREAT exercises, but ONLY IF your core is strong enough to do them safely. If you can keep your stomach drawn in while doing them, fantastic. But be honest with yourself – if you can’t yet keep your stomach in while doing them, you just need a little more time to do deep abdominal strengthening exercises in a seated position first. Then you can challenge yourself more with exercises in other positions, and before you know it you’ll be able to safely, and far more effectively, do your pushups and planks. I’ve got more info below if you’re interested. Good luck!

      • I’m so shocked to see this information while surfing the internet. When I questioned my doctor at my physical she showed no concern and suggested that I exercised. I’ve had this gap and protrusion/bulge above my navel for about 2 years now. Is there anything I can do to heal it???

  21. After my second pregnancy I had a problem with a DR.
    I also still looked pregnant months after my daughter was born.
    I started with pilates. Did 3 days a week with specific exercises for DR.
    A friend just opened a studio so I was lucky to have private sessions.
    During that pregnancy I was really fit and exercized very hard. Think I just overdid it a little.

  22. I have no kids and will never be able to have kids (which I’m totally fine with), as they had to remove my uterus. But surgery gone bad with me ending up in hospital for 6 weeks and ending up with a huge scar over my belly (vertically) and very bad diastacis recti. So it’s not just with pregnancy 🙂

    I would probably need another surgery, but there is no hurry for that! Good luck everyone with their DR/DRA’s…

  23. Thanks so much for this post! I’ve resigned myself to a small baby belly despite 5 years of exercise and clean eating….just did the test and the gap I have is insane! I’d love to know if it is possible to correct it if you are this far (5 years) postpartum? I’ll sift through the information and comments, but I’m curious if after a certain window of time, it’s surgery or a pooch? Thanks Wellness Mama and readers for the excellent info.

    • It is NEVER too late to improve a diastasis. My oldest client is in her late 80s and had no idea she’s been suffering from a diastasis (she actually came to me to learn how to hoopdance believe it or not!). It has made all the difference for her in terms of posture, mobility, core strength, and of course, appearance 🙂 I’ve got more info posted below if you’re interested.

  24. Lorraine Scapens program Birth2FitMum really helped me! It’s a wonderful program for healing DR and I highly recommend it!

  25. First, thank you so much to Wellness Mama for putting together this most helpful information. There is so much conflicting information out there, and you did a wonderful job putting this together. I am a mom of 2, and prenatal/postpartum trainer specializing in diastasis recti. (I also am a Tupler Technique Qualified Instructor, but have progressed to my own program that I have been using with my clients for the past 5 years). Diastasis recti is something that far too few women realize they suffer from, and as Wellness Mama correctly explained, it can be responsible for many problems. Not only does it contribute to the appearance of a protruding belly, but for me it led to an umbilical hernia and pelvic fracture. Although a tummy tuck is an option to correct it, many women (myself included) would rather not – or cannot – go under the knife. What I’ve done, 100% through exercise and proper nutrition, is reduce my diastasis, and strengthen my core to a point that I thought was impossible for me after my two kids. I do this with all my clients, both in person and over Skype. If I can offer the most simple advice it is this: you need to strengthen your core from the INSIDE out. Meaning – try to practice pulling your stomach in towards your spine, without holding your breath and without raising your shoulders. By doing this you’re strengthening your transverse muscle, which is what helps to draw in the recti muscles and close the separation. This is imperative to do both during pregnancy and after. The more you practice pulling your stomach in, the easier it will be to keep it pulled in during movements and exercises that otherwise could make a diastasis worse. For example, when you lift your kids, push a stroller, hold a plank position, do even a modified pushup – these are all times when your stomach muscles need to be engaged in order to prevent forceful pressure on the abdominal wall (which would make a diastasis worse). When you cough or sneeze even, without keeping your stomach drawn in, pressure is being placed on your abdominal wall which has already been weakened because of the diastasis. What I do for myself and my clients is not an exercise program – it’s a lifestyle change. Even the way you get into and out of bed needs to be modified, because laying straight back and sitting straight up places far too much strain on the abdominal wall. Instead, pull your stomach in, go to your side, and lower yourself down using your arms. Then rotate to your back. And to get up, pull your stomach in, rotate to your side, and use your arms to push yourself up. It may sound silly, but these everyday movements make ALL the difference. On my website, fitnotic.com, I have some videos demonstrating the exercises I recommend and how to modify everyday movements that could be making the problem worse. It is so refreshing to see helpful information being presented on this, so again, THANK YOU to Wellness Mama! Keep up the great work 🙂

    • Thank you for sharing this info. As I mentioned to someone elses comment above – I think I really need to see a PT who specializes in DR and also hernias. I realized I had a hernia about 3 months after I had my daughter. She is now 2.5 and I think the hernia has gotten a little larger. I know I got the hernia because I have a weak core, I have always been weak in that area but I had no idea how to strengthen it other than crunches and those never seemed to do much. Now I know why, its because the problem was much deeper! It seems I am doing everything wrong! I would love to heal my hernia without surgery and close the gap. My gap isn’t really that large if I am measuring correctly its 2-3 (fingers) in the center. Also, my tailbone really hurts when I try to lie flat on my back. I have a feeling this is related to all thats going on in the core area.
      It sounds like you are saying the place to start is by pulling your stomach in. I know there is a proper way to do this and I hope I am all aligned! I have been sitting like this for a few minutes and its really exhausting. Ive always been such a slouch…this is going to take some serious mindfulness and maybe a temporary hand tattoo reminding to pull it all in! Its just nice to know that it can be done and that Im not the only one struggling with this!

      • Gretchen, when you are sitting make sure you are using a backrest/back of the chair and that you are on your sit bones, not sitting back on your sacrum. It’s quite likely that this will be tiring in less than 10 minutes, maybe more like 1 minute or even less. 🙂 This is one reason splinting is helpful at first- it takes some of the work away so you can maintain the alignment for much longer. Because when you slouch your core isnt’ working at all, and thus it is weak from slouching all the time. If that makes sense. Remind yourself to sit up straight against the back of the chair every time you sit down to eat, get in your car, sit at a desk, etc. This is a good start! Sorry for not replying earlier- busy with the holidays!

        • Forgot to mention I live in east central Illinois – please let me know if you know of any PT’s around here!
          Thanks!

      • Hi Gretchen, I am also a women’s health physical therapist. Sorry to jump into the conversation but it saddens me to read about women who are suffering with these issues and aren’t sure where to turn. Really the only way to full healing for DRA or any other issue is by addressing whole health. There are some specific but simple things that must be addressed in order for healing to take place. For example… Do you get outside enough- get enough fresh air, sunshine, real manual work? Drink enough water, and water only? Get plenty of rest? Eat healthy foods? Trust in God to provide and leave all your worries with Him?
        Just a few things to think about.

        Exercise is important too and can definitely help to speed the process and bring relief, but again, it can’t be the only or even the main thing if you are looking to get to the root of the issue.

        I would be happy to talk further with you if you’re interested in a whole health approach, not just to treat the DRA but you as a whole person. I don’t typically take clients anymore except in special cases because I homeschool my children, but do still enjoy helping point women in the right direction.

        Blessings!

  26. This is such important information. I didn’t realize any of this with my first child of 11.2lbs !!! and then went and immediately started doing crunches and such making it even worse. I then had a 10lb baby. My DR was very wide about 6cm. I looked very pregnant regardless of normal weight. Previously to pregnancy I had always had a naturally narrow waist that stayed flat with little effort. I eventually had physio which frankly did absolutely nothing. I finally gave in to having an Abdominoplasty (tummy tuck). Which in an ideal world I never would have thought I would do. But in the end I really didn’t want to be asked if I was pregnant constantly and I really wanted to feel normal and attractive again. It certainly worked and has fixed the problem. I actually do feel stronger (even though it’s just sewn together, suppose it’s not true strength) but my back is more stable, my hip no longer clicks out and I stand straighter and I don’t look pregnant anymore. I do feel like DR reaches a certain severity where there is no return without surgery.

  27. I have had great success with Mutual Systems. I did their 12 week program and lost over 20lbs and my 4 finger diastes went down to 1 and a half. I did the program religiously for about 6 months (kept going). We have moved and are transitioning, so once we are settled, I am planning on getting back into it. In the past I did the Tupper and had little LONG LASTING results. Even though I’ve been off of it for a a little over a month, I still have core strength and pelvic floor strength as well. Mutu in some ways has been a lifestyle change above anything else. I have 6 children, my oldest is 10 and my youngest is 11 months. I first noticed diastes rectify after my first, but it got better. It seemed permeates after my third. All that is to say I am pleased with Mutu Systems, but it each Mama needs to find what works for her!

  28. I’m so glad you wrote about this! You’re right in that no one discusses it and it’s so common! I had a minor case of diastasis recti and used the FITsplint along with specific deep core exercises and it worked wonders for me!!

  29. Great article. I have been treating women with Dr for over 15 years and there is a ton of misinformation out there on DR and pelvic floor dysfunction. I work with many women who were told that to heal their DR they needed surgery, to bind their abs and or to do isolated navel to spine exercises. Women who are in pain, leek pee and find themselves suffering more and more with each pregnancy. None of these are good solutions. Especially not the navel to spine exercises. DR is a WHOLE body issue and is a pressure system issue that has a lot to do with breathing mechanics, chronic movement patterns and muscle imbalance. It is NOT about the CORE! And just treating the core can only create more issues down the road. The core might be the victim but to really heal a DR you need to get to the root cause. When I assess women – many of them do not know how to breath well, how to move well, how to engage or release their pelvic floor muscles and are imbalanced in their muscles. Just telling them to isolate their TVA does not work and it is a bandaid solution. The best solution is one that addresses breathing, alignment, mobility, stability, and movement habits.
    -Lauren Ohayon

    • Do you recommend a certain system that is a whole body approach?

      • Mutu Systems is a whole body approach. That is what drew me into this diastes recti rehibilatation progam.

  30. I have 6 kids. My third 10lb 9oz baby is when I developed DR. I didn’t know it though until right before my last pregnancy. I had a ten finger width gap! Despite my thin build I was constantly being asked when I was due when I wasn’t pregnant. In the middle of my last pregnancy I discovered and started doing the Tuppler program and despite being pregnant made tremendous progress….I actually regained my belly button, I “lost” after my third child, in the middle of this last pregnancy! I am now at a 2/3 finger width (“baby” is 16 months old). Healing. DR is work! And takes time. I’m happy with my progress but I still aim to heal it more. I have also worked on my posture which makes a word of difference. If you aren’t aligned the muscles are going to have a harder time healing in their correct position. To all you ladies working on healing your DR stay strong and persevere! Don’t give up!

  31. I just finished up with The Tummy Team and I highly recommend them! I got DR with my first pregnancy almost 8 years ago and was told by my ob just to work on my core (crunches and sit ups) so things never got better. I’ve had two more kiddos since then and started with The Tummy Team when my youngest was 4 months. My gap was measured top, middle bottom with a measurement of 4, 4, and 3 fingers wide. After four visits within just two months my gap is now 1, 2, and 1. It’s all about breathing exercises, posture, being aware of how you sit up and get in and out of bed, as well as using the binder. To be honest, it was one of the simplest things yet so effective. Check out their website, they do both pre and post natal. I was lucky enough to be able to visit in person but I’m sure their online courses are just as effective.

  32. I tried the Tupler technique & splinting with a little short term gain, but soooo many exercises so much time it was not realistic for me, and i found it only focused on the transverse.
    Then I discovered MUTU and really changed things! Wendy is great, there are explanational videos, she addresses the whole of you, not just your tummy, she is down to earth, straight forward and the program is very easy to follow!! Love my MUTU!
    I would recommend this to everyone who needs a bit more fitness and strength, not just people with diastasis.
    It’s so good that people are starting to talk about diastasis, i know so many personal trainers and gym people giving mums crunches etc to fix their ‘Mummy tummy” and many women get so disheartened when nothing works! It needs to be part of the regular fitness training!!!!
    Great article many thanks

  33. Hi i have only just realised I have DR and my ast baby was 21 years ago !!! Please tell meis it possible to fix it after this huge length of time? What are the exercises to fix it ?

    • Hiya Jacqueline,
      DR can be fixed whenever you had your babies!!! Look at all the resources listed above, Mutumama, katy says and tummy team seem to be the ones that most people find successful. I personally use mutu, i think wendy is great, total body realignment, plus lifestyle and short easy to follow exercises and workouts. I love it.
      Good luck!!!

  34. Can belly dancing help or worsen DR? Thanks

  35. My last baby was almost 11 years ago. Can I heal my DR? The plastic surgeon said it was 2 fingers wide. I do jot want to have my muscle surgically put back together but I am sure I need a tummy tuck for the extra skin. Please advise, and what method I should use since it has been so long since my last child. I am unsure if the connective tissue can come back together after this long.

    • I haven’t personally tried after that long, but I think it would be at least worth a try before surgery…

    • Yes, you can heal a DR after any length of time, and 2 fingers is not bad at all. Healing the DR through exercise, alignment, and changing the way pressure works in your abdomen will get to the root cause, which surgery will not do, though you may still decide you want the tummy tuck for excess skin. I can vouch for the Tummy Team and Katy Bowman’s book Diastasis Recti- both have different, but complementary strategies for healing. I am doing advanced training with both practitioners and healed my DR using both.

  36. This has been a topic near and dear to my heart over the last few months as I’m expecting baby #4 in November. Just to add another resource for those searching for a good fit… please look up Julie Wiebe. She is a physical therapist specializing in diastasis recti and pelvic floor. She has some fantastic videos on the “piston” method of breathing and proper alignment. I have found them to be tremendously helpful.

  37. Hi Katie, thank you for this fantastic info. Could you check the fit2b link… It appears to be going to another website?