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  • Writer's pictureDr Rachel Collins

Let's Close that Gap!

Let’s talk about Diastasis Recti, commonly known as DR. If you are not familiar with DR this is when your front abs stretch to make room for your baby and cause increased separation between the front ab muscles. About 99.9% of women have DR at birth (I would say 100% but there are those unicorns out there), so there is no escaping the gap. Where we start to focus on closing this gap is post birth when women are concerned about their core and the aesthetics of their stomach.

But before I talk about things to do during postpartum there are exercises you can do during pregnancy to help strengthen your core and reduce the gap quicker post baby. You can’t escape the separation as your belly grows and you should be embracing the growth of the baby. Staying active while focusing on 360 breathing and pressure management is key.

360 breathing is where you focus on expanding ribs, belly and back on the inhale and activating your core to exhale. The main things to focus on are making sure you are getting good movement in your ribs and back. As the baby grows, this will get more difficult but the more you practice the easier it will be to engage your core during and after pregnancy. Another tip is pressure management. It is very easy to increase pressure through your belly when getting out of bed or standing up from a chair. Simple things like watching for excessive doming in your belly and rolling onto your side before getting out of bed can help reduce extra stress through the front abs.

I’m now talking to my postpartum moms, or anyone who has a gap in their front abs. I want you to understand that the separation can be reduced no matter how large or how long you had it. Your front abs are connected by fascia that can get stretched when under stress, like when growing a baby or weakened core with poorly managed pressure. The fascia between your abs can be tightened and your abdominals can be strengthened.

I would first focus on making sure you have the mobility in your ribs to get proper engagement of your core. I’m referring back to the 360 breathing. You have to be able to move your ribs in order to help close the gap.

Once you can perform 360 breathing, it’s important to stress the fascia and core muscles in different directions. I know you have heard about fear of the dom and if you are doming in your abs then you shouldn’t do the exercise. I was one of these people that talked about the danger of doming in the abs. There is a certain amount of doming in the abs that is acceptable, but I would be aware of hard doming present in the abs during stressful exercises or if you are experiencing pain.

You need to know that you will not close your gap by performing all your exercises on the floor. The body needs to be challenged in different plans and more importantly during functional movements. It is important to add resistance to exercises as well; loading tissues is what will help build strength.

Some example exercises for DR:

  • Side planks

  • Resisted chops

  • Hanging knee raises

  • Ab lean back

  • Turkish get ups

There are so many exercises that can be done to help with closing the gap, but I would recommend taking advantage of seeing a women's health or pelvic floor therapist. The key to reducing DR is knowing what exercises are right for you and how to know if you are performing them properly.

I provide complimentary consults to discuss your needs and help guide in exercises to perform or to assist you in further help you may need. My goal is to educate women on proper rehab and to connect them with services that will help them live symptom free.

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