Diastasis recti is a common condition seen in postpartum women where connective tissue in the abdominal muscles, the linea alba, thins and spreads out causing the abdominal muscles to separate. This separation in the rectus abdominis can cause a bulging tummy, umbilical hernia, back pain, postural problems and pelvic floor weakness. Diastasis recti can happen to anyone, men, women or children however it is very prevalent after the increased abdominal pressure of pregnancy.
How to Check Yourself for Diastasis
Lay down on your back with your feet on the floor hip distance apart and your knees bent. Check for the following three things:
Place the fingers of one hand at the center of your abdominal muscles starting just below the solar plexus. Bring the other hand to the back of your head. As you lift your head up from the ground and engage your abdominals, you may be able to feel the edges of your rectus abdominis on either side. Notice the size of the space in between those muscles when they initially fire--just as you begin to lift your head. The muscles will come closer together as you fully engage so finding the starting point is important.
The space between the rectus can be anything between one finger and up to four fingers or more wide. It can be helpful to move the fingers side to side to find the edges of the rectus muscles. Repeat this check at several points from the solar plexus down to your pubic bone. Typically there is the greatest amount of separation around the navel.
Check the degree of softness in your tissue in this space between the rectus as you engage your muscles. Do your fingers sink down far into your belly? Soft tissue means you need to develop strength and do more to protect your abdomen.
Does your stomach push out when you engage it? This can look like bulging or tenting.
Another thing to pay attention to here is if you have a habit of bearing down when you try to fire the abdominal muscles. This is the feeling of pushing like during labor or a bowel movement. It will cause the abdominals to bulge and also put too much pressure on the pelvic floor causing bladder issues. If you bare down or bulge out you need to retrain your core muscles to pull everything in and provide support.
In my experience working with dozens of women that have diastasis, there are many factors that determine whether or not a woman has a true diastasis and whether or not the separation is something that requires special focus to repair. I take into account a combination of the above elements. If you think that you might have diastasis, it can be helpful to get a second opinion from someone that specializes in this condition.