mom and baby doing diastasis recti breathing exercises

7 Diastasis Recti Symptoms Every Women Should Know

Pregnancy and motherhood can be an incredibly beautiful time. But, it’s also a time of enormous demands on the body. While many moms LOVE feeling their baby grow, pregnancy is not always comfortable. And postpartum can be even more uncomfortable! It’s easy to wonder if you will ever feel comfortable and at home in your body again.

Many times, these new discomforts in pregnancy, postpartum and beyond aren’t something you’re powerless over. In fact, often they are diastasis recti symptoms. Which means, you can do something about it! If you’re wondering what diastasis is, you are not alone!

I didn’t learn about diastasis recti and how it was affecting my body until after the birth of my second child – when I was in significant discomfort. I really wish someone had pointed out the diastasis recti symptoms I was experiencing sooner, so I could have been more comfortable throughout all of the childbearing year.

The good news is that you can take what I’ve learned and check yourself for diastasis – and do something about it right now! It doesn’t matter if you are currently pregnant, or if it’s been years since you’ve had babies and are just learning about this.

With the right support, your body can heal!

What Is Diastasis Recti?

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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.

7 Telling Diastasis Recti Symptoms

You may be wondering, how can I tell if what I am experiencing is a symptom of diastasis recti or something else entirely? If you are ever unsure, you can check in with a physical therapists. If you have insurance, you likely can go to at least 6-8 sessions with a PT during or after pregnancy. This is definitely worth it.

But here is a simple diastasis recti symptoms checklist to understand your own symptoms a bit better.

1. You notice a doming or cone shape in your belly.

It’s a bit easier to see physical symptoms of diastasis recti after you’ve had your baby. If you feel like your tummy domes or cones out, you likely have diastasis. See how this mom had a belly that hung far away from her body? This is a common presentation of diastasis recti. Other women consider this a mommy pooch or c-section pooch.

During pregnancy, this diastasis recti symptom is more difficult to see because your belly is already stretched around your baby.

Sometimes you may notice your belly button looks different. It may have a soft squishy area that forms a diamond shape around it. You may also just have loose saggy skin around your belly button. This is also a diastasis recti symptom.

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

The easiest way to ‘test’ for diastasis postpartum, is to lay on your back and see if a valley forms between your abdominal walls. You can see this woman has about a one finger separation between the right and left side of her abdominal wall.

I had a much larger separation when I learned I had diastasis recti. For me, I could easily fit four fingers in that valley between the left and right abdominal wall. And though it took time and patience, it is completely healed now.

This is one of the reasons I believe that you can also do something about your diastasis recti symptoms no matter how bad they are today!

During pregnancy, a valley won’t form, but you or a PT can still see if you can feel the separation between your abdominal walls.

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 diastasis recti symptom. The muscles of your pelvic floor are 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 (the red muscles you see in the model above). This additional weight can cause pain and discomfort.

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.

I found that some programs I used to heal my diastasis also addressed pelvic floor problems. The program I most liked was Every Mother. However, there were other programs that I did not finish because I found they caused more pelvic pain, not less. When trying to heal, it’s important to pay close attention to your body and see what is working and stop if it causes more pain.

Pelvic soreness is one of the tell tell signs in pregnancy that you should take action towards treating diastasis recti with PT treatments or a PT led exercise program like Every Mother.

4. You pee when you sneeze, laugh, cough, orgasm, run or any other time you weren’t planning on it.

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 if you are dealing with this. However, you are by no means doomed to live with a pee squirt with every sneeze for the rest of your life.

Another quick diastasis test is to fake cough. Did you feel you abs go out or in? If they went out – you need to learn to use your muscles differently. What about your pelvic floor? Did it go down and out or up and in? You want to learn an up and in motion to protect your body during pregnancy and postpartum.

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.

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 Every Mother, there is a specific program that helps with pelvic pain. This is a very gentle and safe program. If you have pelvic pain, start here.

6. Your low back, hips or shoulders are sore + your posture is off.

If your abs are separated, then the rest of your body has 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.’

You may notice that you stand with a pelvic tilt, or your hips tucked under making it look like you have no butt. You may also notice your head jutting forward and your shoulders rounding.

Because you don’t have a strong core, everything else is going to be a bit off. It’s very common to have hip pain, low back pain and shoulder pain when you have abdominal separation. While these aches on their own could be have many causes, when you start to put many diastasis recti symptoms together, it becomes more clear if diastasis is the root of your problem.

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

Are you pregnant and concerned you might have diastasis? Diastasis recti becomes more and more likely with each pregnancy. While most of these diastasis recti symptoms have been things you might notice postpartum, an easy sign to recognize diastasis in pregnancy is a feeling of your baby hanging far away from your belly. Especially if it’s a second or third baby.

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 diastasis can take much longer to birth. In fact, back labor is frequently due to baby positioning, which is something you can often prevent by addressing your posture and diastasis recti while you are still pregnant.

How Common Are Diastasis Recti Symptoms?

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

The good news is that with intention and the right movements, diastasis recti can heal. The bad news is that most women are not given support to do this unless they seek it out.

So if you are uncomfortable with your pregnant or postpartum body, have pelvic pain, back pain, sore shoulders, a sagging belly that still looks pregnant, read on. You are in the right place.

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 3 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.

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. While complete healing took quite a while, getting out of pain happened quite quickly.

Path 2: Participate In A Wholistic Diastasis Recti Exercise Program

I’ve mentioned Every Mother a couple times in this article. I love them because they provide a personalized daily exercise regimen tailored to address your unique core and pelvic floor needs at any life stage. They have specific programs for pregnancy, postpartum, pelvic pain, incontinence, sexual health. and post c-section.

I also appreciated that the workout were gentle enough to handle with an aching body, and well explained. You will learn quite a bit about your body as you progress through the program.

I also appreciate that their program has been studied and proven to be effective with results published in medical journals.

Not to mention – it is extremely affordable. Depending on the plan you buy, it can be as inexpensive as $9.99 a month.

So if you’re ready to get started – jump in here.

Path 3: Bump Up The Intensity And Focus On Core Work

One thing that surprised me was that while getting out of pain happened pretty quickly, addressing the mommy pooch took a lot longer. I embraced being a beginner and learned A LOT in Every Mother. In fact, if I hadn’t slowed down to learn how to properly use my muscles, I likely would have injured myself in the yoga classes I frequent.

I went from a 4 finger separation to a 2 finger separation pretty quickly. But – then I stayed there for about a year, despite yoga, jump roping and running on inclines. But, when I found XB Pilates, the rest of that gap closed pretty quickly. I did three rounds of this program and it made all the difference for me.

My coach, Samantha Barlow and I run a bodi group called Self Care Through Motion – where we support moms who are trying to safely exercise during pregnancy and heal postpartum. It is great for moms who are not in pain and want to heal their body. It is also an amazing place for moms who are pregnant and want workouts that are tailored to the unique needs of the pregnant body and don’t want to create diastasis by doing the wrong exercises.

We recommend progressing through Pre and Postpartum Bar > To XB Pilates > To Xtend Barre > Barre Blend

The great thing is that for less than $250 you have access to not only these programs but over 70 more for a year! Plus or group where you can have a sense of community and encouragement on the way.

This is my coach and partner Samantha – her transformation was incredible and we see moms have results like this all the time.

Whether you join us for a month or a year, it is an honor to support moms as they care for their pregnant body and become stronger and sexier than ever!

The Most Important Step to Healing Diastasis Recti

The most important part of healing your diastasis recti symptoms is having belief that it is possible. Create systems to support you in your self care and help you move towards your goal even when you don’t feel like it. 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. The journey you have been on to give life is incredible. Now, you also get a journey back to the strongest, sexiest, healthiest version of you. Have the courage to seek the next step, which is healing.

Sending light, love and hope,

Suzzie Vehrs

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