I originally shared this article 18 months ago! I have since made several edits and hope it helps a few of you expecting mamas.
What is diastasis recti?
In its simplest definition, diastasis recti is the separation of the two rectus abdominis muscles that are held together by a band of connective tissue called the linea alba.
During pregnancy, hormones cause the linea alba to soften. This can lead to a “thicker” waistline in the early stages of pregnancy. The softening combined with pressure from a growing baby can cause the two recti to separate around the area of the navel.
After the 20th week of pregnancy, women can be checked to see if any separation has occurred.
This video shows how to check for distasis recti. Summary: Fingers line up perpendicular to the linea alba, and start at the navel, moving down. A separation of more than 2 fingers width, indicates separation.
This simple exercise will help keep the abs from further separating as they begin to heal.
1. Lie in supine position (on back) with knees bent. Cross your hands over the abdominal area, guiding recti muscles toward the middle.
2. Inhale, then slowly exhale and pull in abdominal muscles, navel to spine, while simultaneously pulling muscles together with hands. Keep shoulder blades on ground to avoid activating the oblique muscles which insert on the linea alba.
Do this exercise several times in the morning and evening.
Core Training During Pregnancy Number One
During my first pregnancy, I mainly listened to my body, but kept training at a fairly high level. I had not gone through Healthy Moms® Perinatal Fitness Certification yet. As a result, I unknowingly performed a lot of core exercises that are not encouraged by that training.
Crunches are a big no, especially if you have diastasis recti. They will actually do more harm. And, the seemingly harmless plank, can actually increase your risk for diastasis recti. What?!
Here’s the rational.
A pregnant belly in the 2nd and 3rd trimester can be a lot of of extra weight in the front of the body. Couple that with being in a front plank position, and you are a putting a ton of stress on the already softened linea alba.
I was bummed when I learned this, because I thought a plank was a pretty safe exercise I could do anywhere.
Training During Pregnancy Number Two
During my second pregnancy, I focused on staying upright to keep my abs toned and strong. Here are a few ways I continued to train my core.
1. Overhead Lifts
Holding weight overhead, like in overhead squats or push-press, engages my core. Your abs have to be “turned on” to support this weight properly.
2. Kettlebell Swings
Kettlebell swings require your core to be active throughout the movement. This movement is a great way to improve conditioning as well. Read more about that HERE.
Squats in all variations are a great way to continue to train your abs. Again, your abs must be “on” to support the weight, whether it’s a back, front, or goblet squat.
4. Being Aware of Posture
When I’m sitting at the computer, taking Cooper and Jada for a walk, driving, I’m thinking about my posture and drawing my abs in.
And, belly breathing throughout the day, helps too.
I exhale, and letting my belly expand, then inhale and draw my abs inward, gently “hugging” the baby. Simply being more aware of my abs being engaged, quickly fixes my posture to avoid lordosis (swayback).
What is your favorite exercise for training abs?
Disclaimer: Although I am an NSCA-CSCS and Healthy Moms® Perinatal Instructor, you should consult a physician before starting any exercise program or diet plan. If you choose to do any of the workouts featured on this website, you do so at your own risk.