LET’S TALK ABOUT Diastasis Rectus Abdominus, or SEPARATION OF YOUR ‘SIX PACK’!

What is it?

During Pregnancy our bodies are designed to make room for the little bundle who has taken up temporary residence. A major part of this process is the increased laxity or stretchiness of the ligaments around our pelvic girdle to allow for some movement and expansion at the joints. Our tummy muscles, both our deep core layer and our outer abdominal layer, are also highly stressed. In some cases the connective tissue that joins our left and right “6 pack” muscles is stretched and allows for separation of these Rectus Abdominus muscles. This separation is known as ‘Diastasis Rectus Abdominus’, and it is a common condition after some pregnancies or after many years of loading your abdominals with poor technique.

After you have your baby, it is very important to start activating your deep core stability muscles which stabilise your pelvis, lumbar spine, and provide a ‘corset’, if you like, around your mid-section. Your core muscles comprise of your pelvic floor, deep abdominal wall muscles, deep muscles that lie adjacent to your spine, and the associated connective tissue and fascia.

What if I have it?

If you have a separation of your abdominal muscles immediately post-partum, like over 50% of women do, the separation may naturally resolve during the first 8 weeks. Gentle pelvic floor and core stability exercises will assist this process. In some cases, this separation fails to resolve and often there will be no further closure once your baby has his first birthday. This is not unusual! Your body is clever, and with the correct exercises it can learn optimal strategies to transfer loads across your abdomen. A physiotherapist can assist you with an exercise program to facilitate this functional recovery. You may be left with a “gap” that is greater than normal, but still function at the high level you were at prior to having your bub.


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Your doctor, nurse or physiotherapist may measure the amount of separation you having using their fingers. If you have a very large Diastasis Rectus Abdominus (>8 finger width), you should be prescribed with an abdominal brace to wear post-partum to assist you. Even a large separation like this has the potential to reduce without surgery.

What if I’m not recovering from it?

If you are struggling with pain or dysfunction around your lower back or pelvic girdle region and you have not yet sought medical advice, your first point of call may be the physiotherapist. The physio can help with pain reduction and direct you with exercises to help restore your ability to transfer load across the lumbar spine and pelvis. If you are having trouble with incontinence, there are Women’s Health physiotherapists who have a special interest in this area.

Can it be repaired surgically?

If you are at least 1 year post partum with a Diastasis Rectus Abdominus and have been following an appropriate exercise program but still suffering from the following, surgical repair of your diastasis may be considered.

  • Ongoing lumbo-pelvic pain
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Inability to progress with your exercise program
  • Failure to return to full function

In this case, you would have a chat with your GP and they may refer you on to a specialist for a review.


Blog Written by Emma McGuire

Physiotherapist and one half of the J.E.M team


Check out J.E.M on their FACEBOOK and on their webpage www.jemovement.net

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(This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional. All information is written from the experience and knowledge of the person writing the post).