Diastasis Rectus Abdominis (DRA) is the separation of the rectus abdominis; the outer most abdominal muscles, AKA the “six pack”.
These muscles separate, for the most part, due to the growing uterus during pregnancy. The birth itself, doesn’t really affect this, in that, it’s more about the slow pressure, changes in hormones, posture (and a whole slew of factors) that can affect the severity of the separation.
Check out this video I did for my other company, Bellies Inc. last year about Diastasis in women AND men!
Research and Diastasis
Studies show us that 100% of pregnant women will get some degree of abdominal separation by the end of the third trimester and only about 1/3 will fully recover after birth. There is also research to support that as a result you can also get back pain, hip pain and approximately 50% of people who have a DRA, also suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction.
Now if you’re a mother, you might already be familiar with this term because either,
a) You suffer/suffered from it and/or
b) You’re pregnant and you’re afraid of getting it.
c) Have a belly that just never went away since pregnancy and birth.
Anatomy and the Abdominals
The reality is, our rectus abdominis was never “fused” together in the first place. As you can see by the diagram, the six pack is kept together by a white line, called the linea alba, which is a connective tissue to help “connect” the right and left sides of the RA at the midline.
It is this same connective tissue that begins to stretch and move sideways to help the body create space for the growing baby in utero. However, when the baby is out, the muscles don’t “snap back” and can leave you with a post-baby pooch that just won’t go away and a core that feels week and disconnected.
Now I appreciate for some, that thinking about the fact that your abdominals could actually separate, sounds kind of freakish, however, DRA is not a death sentence for your abs by any means.
If anything, we have come to accept that DRA is a very normal part of pregnancy.
Forget “Closing the Gap”
Alas…..over the many, many years of being in the fitness industry, just like anything else, research evolves and things change. Back in the day it used to about “closing the gap” and mothers would become obsessed (me included) about the space between the abdominal muscles and how (ON EARTH) would we be able to get our abs back again?
The reality is, you most likely won’t (remember the research?) but that doesn’t mean you can’t be stronger and more functional than before! So basically, we have concluded (for now) that the gap has no bearing on function, strength and support, going forward.
So what does this mean?
Anyone can treat a Diastasis
This means that when dealing with a DRA, it is SO MUCH MORE than trying to get a six-pack (which I must point out is about 80-85% food and not much else). When treating a DRA, there are a lot of things you can do during pregnancy to help minimize the impact as well as weeks, months and (yes) even years after birth to help regain function so you’re not in pain, pee all of the time and feel like you’re a lost cause.
The research is clear. You CAN have a diastasis and have a strong core because function trumps esthetics every single time.