A Diastasis Recti Abdominis (DRA) is the normal amount of separation between the two abdominis recti muscles (the 6 pack of the abdomen). This space is always present whether pregnant or not and is a release valve to accommodate a pregnant belly, bloating, gas or a large meal. Think of the last time you had Tacos... mmmm...Tacos. Thank goodness we have this release valve!
In pregnancy, the linea alba (connective tissue) between the 6 pack muscles can become stretched and thin and the natural separation can become larger. A DRA can also become larger during labour and delivery, with improper core training, non-optimal body mechanics and due to pelvic floor dysfunction.
A large DRA can contribute to low back pain, pelvic pain and core instability. In severe cases a herniation may be present.
Now listen up, the size of the gap is not necessarily important. What is important is if you have a functional or a non-functional DRA. A functional DRA means you can generate and maintain tension in your core. As you may have guessed, a non-functional DRA means you cannot generate and maintain tension in your core. This may look like coning or doming down the mid-line of your abdomen (linea alba), you may experience symptoms of incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, low back pain or pelvic pain.
The question is: how can you create a functional DRA?
The good news is that you can start in early pregnancy! Your best bet for optimal function is to start in the first trimester. Prenatal strengthening focuses on therapeutic core training to align the body, create optimal breathing strategies and a synergistic core 4 (the muscles that work beautifully together to provide an efficient and effective pelvic floor).
Postpartum restoration focuses on re-training and progressively challenging the ENTIRE core to create a functional DRA. We now know that by assessing each individual and approaching DRA rehab from a case by case basis we can incorporate once previously thought “un-safe” exercises into a rehab program. Isn’t it nice to have selection and variance??? No one wants to eat the same lunch every single day. DRA rehab is about carefully assessing how you manage pressure in your abdomen and slowly challenging your core. You can easily be taught to look for red flags like doming, coning and bread loafing in your day to day activities as well as in your rehab program. Isn’t this empowering news! We no longer need to be afraid of certain movements. Hello function, hello confidence!
Want to know more? Check out: www.thepregnantpelvis.net