mom and baby doing diastasis recti breathing exercises

7 Diastasis Recti Symptoms Every Mother Should Know

Did you know that 45% of women will have symptoms of diastasis recti 6 months after pregnancy? And 35% of women will continue to have symptoms a year or more postpartum?

Are you wondering if your own post partum body changes could be diastais recti, and if they are what you can do about it?

If so, you are in the right place. Too many of us have been told that our diastasis recti symptoms are just an unfortunate part of having babies that we have to live with and get used to. When in fact, these symptoms are almost always totally treatable at home, for a low cost.

So if you are uncomfortable with your postpartum body, have pelvic pain, back pain, sore shoulders, a sagging belly that still looks pregnant, read on. This article is meant for you.

I Tried To Ignore My Diastasis Reti Symptoms And This Is What Happened

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Diastasis recti symptoms plagued me since the birth of my first child nearly 5 years ago.

Have you ever had a little problem that seemed like it probably would, maybe could go away on its own but it didn’t? It festered and got worse and worse.

That is what happened to my own diastasis recti symptoms.

After the birth of my first child, I noticed my body was different, I was a little more uncomfortable, I was a little more careful about how hard I would laugh because, you know, I didn’t want to pee a little. But mostly, I was me and I assumed this is how life after kids was.

But then, I had a second child. A second pregnancy that I carried a huge baby (over 10 lbs at birth people!) . I continued to move disfuctionally, and continued to write off symptoms, until, I couldn’t ignore it any more.

By the time I sought out help for my diastasis recti symptoms, I had a 4 finger separation between my abs. (This is bad…. very bad).

I had a vaginal and rectal prolapse (yup your pelvic floor is part of your abs and affected by DR)

I was in pain nearly every day.

Things had escalated past “normal” post partum complaints to “Something has gotta change and change right now!”

The truth is, most of the suffering my body went through after having children could have been healed much sooner if I knew what symptoms to watch for. Fortunately, my diastasis recti symptoms were healed with time and attention. And yours probably can too.

My goal is that by the time you finish this article, you will be able to recognize your own diastasis recti symptoms and know that healing is possible for you too.

What is Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis recti is when the connective tissue between your abdominals, the linea alba, weakens and stretches out.

Imagine the linea alba as a zipper holding the left and right sides of your abdominals together. When zipped-up tight, everything feels right and good. All the organs are supported, and snug in their place. You can breathe easily and move easily.

Now imagine someone has undone the zipper that holds the two sides of your abdominal walls together. This is diastasis recti.

Now everything is loose and floppy. Your organs are no longer supported. They press out and put pressure places they shouldn’t. Your stomach looks different. Your body feels different.

Because you are unzipped, you have lost your center of support, so you move differently.

You can guess that this unzipping would significantly affect your body.

All the problems that cascade once this happens are your diastasis recti symptoms.

Are you wondering what diastasis recti looks like in real humans? Check out our visual guide to diastasis recti.

7 Signs You Are Experiencing Diastasis Recti Symptoms

Diastasis Recti Symptoms Experienced After Having a Baby:

1. People look at you and say “Congratulations! When are you due?” but you haven’t been pregnant for a while.

A mommy tummy or a tummy that just doesn’t look the same after pregnancy is one of the easiest to identify diastasis recti symptoms. When your abs separate, they simply don’t hold things in the same place. Thus, even if the weight comes off, your organs have shifted forward and you look pregnant, even when you are not. Many women describe this as their abdominals making a doming or coning shape. Other women consider this a moomy pooch or c-section pooch.

2. You can actually feel a wide and deep gap between your abs.

diastasis recti symptoms line in belly

When your abs are separated, you will see a deep sunken in crevice between the right and left side of your abs.

Do you see the line in the middle of this tummy? This is what I’m talking about. That is a symptom of diastasis recti. Sometimes this is more obvious when you are laying on your back then when you are standing.

If you can actually feel a gap between your abdominals, you know you have diastasis recti. Not sure? Watch a video to learn how to test for Diastasis Recti here.

3. You feel a heaviness in your pelvic floor.

If your vagina aches or you feel like you are carrying a ball between your legs, you may be experiencing a symptom of diastasis recti. Your pelvic floor is an important part of your abdominal system. If your abs separate, it is possible for excess weight of your now unsupported organs to rest on your pelvic floor. Sometimes this leads to a pelvic floor prolapse.

In my world, I would experience this vaginal aching almost continuously. It was so bad that I could barely stand long enough to cook dinner without wanting to lie down and going for walks was no longer enjoyable. (You can imagine how much I enjoyed sex during this period of my life!)

One study found that 66% of women who have diastasis recti also have pelvic floor problems. This is because your pelvic floor and your linea alba are BOTH part of your abdominals. When one part is not working properly, the rest will be affected as well.

4. You pee when you sneeze.

Peeing when you sneeze or laugh is NOT a normal part of pregnancy or postpartum. Yes, many women experience incontinence, so you are not alone. However, you are by no means doomed to live with a pee squirt with every sneeze for the rest of your life.

If your diastasis recti is severe, it is possible not just to leak, but to have total incontinence when you run, when you jump or simply every time you need to go. It is also possible to have fecal incontinence. If you are experiencing this, panty liners and carrying a change of clothes does not have to be on your mind for the rest of your life. These are symptoms of diastasis recti that can usually be healed.

5. It hurts when you have sex.

Your body is designed to have pleasurable sex. Painful penetration may be a sign that your organs have shifted around due to separated abs or pelvic floor prolapse.

It’s easy to get down on your body if you are not able to enjoy sex and have fun like you used to. Painful sex definitely takes a toll on relationships. In fact, you can read more about how pelvic floor health is mental health here.

Here’s the thing, if sex is painful, something is wrong. You need to seek healing. Emily Nagoski, Sex therapist and author of one of my favorite books Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life says this:

“Healing hurts. If you break your leg, there is no stage in the healing process when your leg feels better than it does after it has healed. There is pain and itching and loss of strength. From the moment your leg is broken, it continues to feel bad … until, gradually, it starts to feel less bad. It’s appropriate that it hurts.”

If sex is painful, something is wrong. Do not ignore it. Painful sex is most often not a permanent change of pregnancy. Many women with diastasis recti report painful sex and find as they heal their diastasis, this symptom disappears.

In fact, in one of the diastasis recti healing programs I will talk about below, more than half of the women had less painful sex after addressing their diastasis recti. In fact, some women report being able to experience vaginal orgasms for the first time after addressing their pelvic floor and diastasis recti problems.

6. Your Shoulders Are Rounded And Hurt

One surprising diastasis recti symptom is in your shoulders. Are your shoulders aching when you breastfeed? What about just as you go about during your life? If you notice that your shoulders are rounded and your neck always looks like it’s jutting out, you are definitely having a problem with the integrity and strength of your deepest core muscles and are experiencing diastasis recti.

7. Your back aches

I know a lot of things can contribute to a sore low back. However, if your back aches, it means that you are not using the rest of your body to support yourself when you move. Fixing your core will definitely help. In fact, low back pain is one of the easiest and quickest symptoms to resolve when doing a good diastasis recti exercise program.

Diastasis Recti Symptoms that Are Common During Pregnancy:

The symptoms above are not exclusive to the postpartum period. You may also experience them during pregnancy. These symptoms also point to Diastasis Recti during pregnancy.

6. Your baby bump feels huge and like it is hanging off of your body.

If you have had multiple pregnancies, it is common for the way you carry your baby to change every pregnancy. However, your baby is tilting further away from your body can be a sign of diastasis recti during pregnancy.

This is important to address as it can impact your birth. A baby that is not able to move into an optimal position because of your dysfunction can take much longer to birth and be more painful. In fact, back labor is frequently due to baby positioning, which is something you can often change by addressing your posture and diastasis recti while you are still pregnant.

7. Your low back aches constantly. Like seriously, what gives with the constant pressure?

If your abs are separated, then your back often will try to compensate and do the job that your front side is supposed to do. It is almost impossible to have good posture when your abs are ‘unzipped.’

Often strengthening your abdominals by focusing on diastasis recti repair will lessen or totally release your back pain.

Do You Have to Have a Baby to Experience Diastasis Recti?

No! Diastasis Recti can happen to anyone. Men can also experience diastasis recti. Women who have never had babies can experience diastasis recti. Pregnancy does not cause diastasis recti but can trigger or worsen symptoms.

As a Seattle Doula, I often see women dismiss these symptoms as normal consequences of having a baby. I hope this article has helped you see that you do not have to silently suffer. Now let’s talk about how YOU can HEAL from your symptoms.

What You Need to Know about Diastasis Recti Symptoms and Finding Healing:

Okay, so you identified with some of the diastasis recti symptoms above? Now what?

There are 2 main paths to relieving your diastasis recti symptoms:

Path 1: Work with a Physical Therapist

One of the best ways to address your diastasis recti symptoms and pelvic floor prolapse is to speak with a physical therapist that specializes in helping women with these issues. You can see our resources for working with a PT and the Best PTs in Seattle to find out more about this path (article coming soon!)

Personally, working with a PT was what my midwife recommended to me for my own Diastasis Recti. However, I had to jump through hoops to get my insurance to cover care. In the time I was working with my insurance, I found the workout program below.

Path 2: Participate in a Wholistic Diastasis Recti Exercise Program

After I had my second baby and my diastasis recti symptoms were quite severe, I began researching, reading and seeking out healing. I am excited to share about the program that worked BEST for me called the MUTU System (Mummy Tummy System.)

Now, I believe that we are all individuals and have unique paths to healing. I share this with the hope that you will be inspired to embark on your own path to healing knowing it will not mimic my own. To help you see if this exercise program fits in your path, you can read more about How Mutu Helped Me Heal My Diastasis Recti and Pelvic Floor Prolapse and The Challenges I Faced with the MUTU System in upcoming articles.

Why I recommend the MUTU System

MUTU is the only medically recommended online exercise program for diastasis recti. 94% of women who used this system felt an improvement in how they felt about their body and what it is able to do. I am one of them!

One of the reasons I love this program is because it starts gently. You will learn to reconnect with your pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles. You will also learn how to know if you are using those muscles correctly or not.

Many ab exercises, such as planks, crunches, and twists can actually aggravate diastasis recti. So you definitely need a program that helps you address the diastasis specifically, not just your core muscles. Stay tuned with this Diastasis Recti series because I will be talking about the benefits and problems of diastasis recti exercises soon!

If you want support, education and a daily exercise routine that will help you address your diastasis recti symptoms MUTU may be a good fit for you. I highly recommend this 12-week program to moms who like to work out at home and are willing to put some sweat and time into their healing.

You can even try out a little taste test with a few free MUTU videos to see if you enjoy the structure of the program.

Join MuTu Now

The Most Important Step to Healing Diastasis Recti

The most important part of healing diastasis recti is having faith that it is possible. diastasis recti symptoms do not have to plague you. It is never too late to choose to seek healing. Women have found healing even after years of suffering from diastasis recti.

Have compassion for your body the way it is now. Have gratitude for the journey your body has carried you through. Have the courage to seek the next step, which is healing.

Sending light, love and hope,

Suzzie Vehrs

She Births Bravely Also Provides Birth Tub Rentals and Doula Services in Seattle, WA