Did you know that you can help prevent or minimize diastasis before getting pregnant or giving birth?
During pregnancy, the belly grows to accommodate the growing fetus, stretching the front wall of the abdomen in the process. In many women, this results in the presence of diastasis recti that women notice as an opening between their abdominals after giving birth. This separation is usually most noticeable when doing a sit up or getting out of bed.
In order to address diastasis recti, it is essential to train the muscle that helps close the separation between the six-pack muscles (the rectus abdominis). This muscle is called the transversus abdominis and is the deepest layer of the core. The transversus abdominis acts as a corset around the trunk, helping to stabilize the whole body and preventing the abs from separating during working out and other everyday activities.
Although most women come to physical therapy to address their diastasis after giving birth, strengthening the transversus abdominis before getting pregnant or while pregnant can help minimize how severe one's diastasis is after birth. By strengthening this muscle before or during pregnancy, we can continue to provide the trunk with plenty of support as the belly continues to grow. In addition, this muscle will be much easier to activate if you already have the hang of how to do so before having your baby!
To train this muscle, one gently draws the belly button towards the spine, making sure not to flare the ribs or tense up anywhere else in the body. Activating the transversus abdominis is a subtle motion and shoulder not feel like a big contraction! Whenever we are moving or in an upright position, we should have a light transversus abdominis contraction to help support our body; I like to think of giving about a 30% contraction when I am just going about my daily activities.
For many people, the transversus abdominis is a very difficult muscle to activate and they require the help of a skilled physical therapist to help them coordinate the correct muscle activation. If you are thinking about getting pregnant, are already expecting, or have just given birth, it is an excellent idea to have your core strength and transversus abdominis activation assessed by a pelvic health physical therapist to ensure you are recruiting the correct muscles. Taking the time to address diastasis recti early helps ensure the health of you and your core!
If you or someone you know is interested in getting their core strength up to par before delivering, please give us a call. Annabel Bavage PT, DPT is our Pelvic Floor Specialist and is happy to help!