What is Diastasis Rectus Abdominus?
Diastasis Rectus Abdominus or sometimes called DRA, DRAM or RAD is the separation between the muscle bellies of rectus abdominus or your abdominals to allow for your growing baby and uterus. The majority of women will notice this develop during their third trimester of pregnancy, but for some women this may occur earlier. During pregnancy it is a normal change in the body to allow for your baby to grow. It is usually after the pregnancy that women start to focus on the diastasis and would like to get it resolved. The baby is out, so why is the separation still there!
What does Diastasis Rectus Abdominus look like?
Diastasis Rectus Abdominus looks like a valley or dip in the midline of stomach, which is more prominent when you contract your abdominals. Often you can feel that there is a gap between the two abdominals where before they were joined. If you lift your head when lying down or activate your abdominals when lying down, you may notice a doming effect around the belly button region.
Is Diastasis Rectus Abdominus dangerous or damaging to your health?
DRA is not an issue that causes any serious health implications. A significant diastasis may cause underlying weakness of the abdominals or herniation of the organs underneath. However, this is rare. For most women the goal to reduce their diastasis is to return back to their pre baby body or at least closer to how their body looked.
How is it assessed?
It is usually assessed in lying, the health professional will palpate at the level of your belly button and above and below. Most times it is measured by the number of finger widths between the borders of the abdominals, but sometimes it is measured by calipers or ultrasound. Finger width palpation offers good reliability, is easy to perform, and is widely accepted as the method of measurement of DRA. The health professional will often let you know how many finger widths your diastases is after the assessment.
What can I do to improve Diastasis Rectus Abdominus?
For some lucky women their abdominals will return back to their normal position without much intervention needed. For others a little bit of work and coaxing is needed to reduce the separation back to its pre baby position or at least something that you would be happy with.
The evidence recommends that the most effective way to reduce DRA is for specific abdominal exercises and the use of support garments. Support garments often given are abdominal binders, or tubigrip. This is all depending on the extent of your separation. The most important thing to note about improving DRA is that if you want to reduce your diastasis you want to act fast. Ideally the first 0- 6 months after you have had the baby is the most effective time to intervene. The earlier the better. This is not to say that you cannot improve DRA after 6 months, but it is a lot easier and faster early on when the connective tissues are still malleable. The type of exercise and intensity of exercise given is dependent on the degree of your separation. This will also need to be progressed as your diastases improves. Your women's health physiotherapist will be able to instruct you what exercise and support garments are most suitable for you.