Are you pregnant and want to know how to prevent diastasis recti?
You are in the right place.
In this post you’re going to learn:
- What diastasis recti is exactly,
- Proven ways to prevent abdominal separation during pregnancy, and
- If it’s possible to prevent it after pregnancy.
Let’s get started.
Although I am a doctor, I am not your doctor. This information is for informational purposes only and should not substitute the advice from your healthcare professional. All kinds of exercise and dietary changes are potentially dangerous, and those who do not seek counsel from the appropriate health care authority assume the liability of any injury which may occur. Please read my full Disclaimer for more information. Also, this post may contain affiliate links: meaning I may receive a commission if you use them.
Ok, moving on.
How To Prevent Diastasis Recti During Pregnancy (According to Science)
The only known method of preventing diastasis recti during pregnancy is through antenatal exercise aimed at strengthening the core muscles.
A systematic review of over 330 women from 2013 found that exercise in the prenatal and postnatal period reduced the risk of developing diastasis recti by about 35%
Of note, however, the studies weren’t of the highest quality.
But, the good news is, exercise is a low-risk intervention that has very few downsides during your pregnancy.
Just make sure to speak with your doctor first!
So your next question may be, what exercises should I perform?
We’ll get to them shortly.
First, let’s see if you have diastasis recti.
How to tell if you have Diastasis Recti In Pregnancy
Depending on the trimester of pregnancy you are in, it may be difficult to determine if you have diastasis recti due to your gravid uterus.
With that said, there is an easy test you could perform at home to determine if you have diastasis recti.
It is a wall curl.
Here’s how to do it.
- Stand against the wall with your knees straight and feet flat on the floor.
- Using your right or left hand, place your pointer and middle fingers above your belly button.
- Now, try to curl your head and upper back over your stomach.
- If you are able to feel your fingers sinking into your abdomen and it feels squishy, you have diastasis recti or abdominal wall separation.
If you are unable to palpate this area, feel free to check for diastasis recti at or below you belly button.
Many professionals agree that anything more than 2 centimeters of separation, (which is about the width of 2 fingers) is abnormal.
So now let’s go over the exercises.
The Best Prenatal Diastasis Recti Exercises
Diastasis recti exercises in the prenatal period should be aimed at strengthening the 3 muscle groups that make up the core.
Those 3 muscle groups are the:
- transverse abdominis muscles (TVA)
- obliques, and
- rectus abdominis
Let’s go over how to train each muscle group individually.
How to strengthen your transverse abdominis muscles (TVA) in pregnancy
The TVA is the deepest abdominal muscle that wraps around your belly like a corset.
One of the easiest ways to strengthen your transverse abdominis muscles is to perform diaphragmatic breathing.
Let me show you.
- To do this exercise correctly, simply focus on expanding your belly as much as you can without raising your shoulders or shrugging.
- Next, slowly exhale through your mouth and focus on contracting your abdominal muscles.
- Repeat this process a total of 8-10 times.
Posterior pelvic tilt
Another exercise you could perform is the posterior pelvic tilt.
The posterior pelvic tilt will also help to strengthen the TVA from a standing position.
- Stand 6 inches away from a wall with your upper back and buttock flat against it.
- Next, focus on tilting your pelvis posteriorly to flatten your low back against the wall.
- Hold this contraction for 5 seconds and repeat for 8 repetitions.
Modified plank reps
The next exercise is the modified plank rep which will be performed on the floor.
- Assume a push-up position with your hands underneath your shoulders.
- From here, bring one knee down to the floor and hold it.
- After a 2 count, return back to the push-up position and repeat with the other leg.
- Continue alternating between both legs until you do 10 repetitions on each side.
If you want to see additional exercises you could do in pregnancy to strengthen the transverse abdominis check out my post here.
Now to the next set of core muscles.
How to strengthen your obliques in pregnancy
The oblique is the next muscle group you should train to strengthen your core.
These muscles are located on the side of your rectus abdominis muscles and are responsible for allowing your spine to flex laterally (to the side) and to rotate.
During pregnancy you can strengthen these muscles using the following exercises.
Modified side plank
- To do this exercise, all you have to do is lie on your side and prop yourself up on your elbow and forearm.
- Next, lift your hips and keep your core tight.
- Hold this position for 15-20 seconds.
- Make sure to train both sides.
Standing side bend reach
Next is the standing side bend reach. This movement serves as both a stretch and a way to strengthen the oblique muscles.
- Stand with your feet wider than shoulder width, with your hands on your hips.
- Next bring one arm up above your head and reach over while bending sideways toward the opposite side.
- Only go as far as it feels comfortable.
- Repeat for 8-10 repetitions on each side.
The last exercise is the farmer carry. In order to do this exercise, you will need some form of external resistance like a dumbbell or kettlebell.
- Grab your weight with one hand and stand up tall while engaging your core.
- Next, start walking for at least 10 steps without letting your torso bend toward the side with the weight.
- This exercise will strengthen the obliques isometrically (without actively flexing them).
- Repeat on both sides.
For more information on training your obliques, check out my post on Pregnancy Love Handles [How to Strengthen your Obliques]
Now for the last core muscle group.
How to strengthen your rectus abdominis in pregnancy
The rectus abdominis is the last muscle group we will strengthen in an effort to prevent diastasis recti.
These are the “six pack” muscles that sit in the front of your abdomen.
Here’s how to train them in pregnancy.
Seated lean backs
This exercise is a lot harder than it looks. Start slow and use your hands to help you, if needed.
- Sit on the edge of a chair with your hands crossed in front of you.
- Next, slowly lean back while keeping your back straight.
- Try to get your upper back to touch the backrest.
- Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for 5-8 repetitions per set.
Bear to cow
The bear to cow is another great core exercise that will engage the rectus from a safe position.
- Get onto your hands and knees and engage your core muscles.
- From here, slowly transition onto your tippy-toes without changing your spinal alignment or moving your hands off the floor.
- Return to the starting position, and repeat for 10 repetitions.
Don’t forget to always check in with your provider before doing these, or any type of exercise, during pregnancy!
Alright, next let’s talk about prevention in the postpartum period.
How can I prevent Diastasis Recti AFTER pregnancy?
There isn’t any way to prevent diastasis recti after you deliver, as the abdominal separation happens during pregnancy.
With that said, the 2013 systematic review included studies that evaluated exercise in both the antenatal and postnatal periods.
So if you already have diastasis recti after pregnancy, core-based exercises may help decrease the separation.
This was also seen in a randomized controlled trial from 2019, which divided 40+ postpartum women into one of two abdominal exercise groups. After 8 weeks, both groups noted significant decreases in their abdominal separation!
How to tell if you have Diastasis Recti postpartum
You can determine if you have diastasis recti postpartum by doing the modified curl up.
Here is what it looks like.
- You simply lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Now take your right or left hand and place your pointer and middle finger above your belly button.
- Lift your head up off the floor as if you were bringing your head to the ceiling.
- If you feel your fingers sinking into a gap, you have abdominal separation.
Many experts agree that if you can fit 2 or more fingers into the gap, then you have diastasis recti.
If you don’t feel a gap, there are two other places you can check which I discuss in How To Tell If You Have Diastasis Recti.
Lastly be sure you do not also have an abdominal hernia complicating your diastasis recti.
Diastasis Recti Exercises You Can Do Postpartum
If you are looking for safe diastasis recti exercises to perform in the postpartum period I have great news for you.
I have created an e-book: 100 Exercises for Diastasis Recti: The Complete List, containing 4 levels of 100 different exercises to help you rebuild your core.
Each level has numerous exercises you can do in a seated, standing, and lying position, giving you plenty of options to choose from.
There is even a 6 week core workout program for you to do.
Before engaging in any activity in the postpartum period, it is important you receive clearance from your OBGYN, especially if you had any postpartum complications that would prevent you from working out.
If you are cleared to work out, great!
Keep in mind that rebuilding and strengthening your core is not an overnight process.
This will take time and you must be patient.
Do not get discouraged if you don’t see results right away.
In fact, I recommend you take before and after photos and check your progress every 2-3 weeks.
Exercises To Avoid If You Have Diastasis Recti After Pregnancy
If you have diastasis recti postpartum, you should avoid any exercise that places a lot of pressure on your rectus abdomins exercises or causes significant coning of your abdomen. These include:
- Sit-ups and crunches
- Certain planks
- Twisting exercises
- Heavy lifting
Additionally, one study found that women who reported heavy lifting (20 times per week or more) postpartum, were at greater risk of having diastasis recti 12 months after delivery.
Thats not to say that you will never be able to do these exercises.
Instead, it’s important that you start rebuilding your core using gradual progressions as you work your way up to these types of exercise.
Other Related Questions
Who is prone to Diastasis Recti?
The people who are most prone to developing diastasis recti are those who are overweight and those who are inactive.
Overweight and inactive women are more likely to have a weak core due to increased pressure placed on the abdomen from the excess weight, as well as from not using their core muscles.
The old adage of “use it or lose it” applies here.
A weakened core coupled with a gravid uterus is the perfect recipe for abdominal separation.
Does walking help Diastasis Recti?
Walking by itself probably won’t heal diastasis recti, however, it is one of the best exercises you can during pregnancy and postpartum.
It will help increase your circulation, strengthen your legs, and activate your core to a degree.
Remember, you need to maintain your core active just to keep your spine erect!
Is a Diastasis Recti support belt during pregnancy helpful?
A support belt during pregnancy might be helpful for diastasis recti. There is no concrete data on its effectiveness.
Support belts are meant to be tight to bring your muscles closer together, so in theory, it might be able to help. But this shouldn’t take the place of a proper core strengthening regimen.
In addition, some women might find support belts to be very bothersome.
Experiment for yourself and see if a support belt is comfortable for you.
How do I get rid of Diastasis Recti naturally?
Diastasis recti has the potential to heal on its own.
In fact, one study found that 50% of women had complete spontaneous resolution of diastasis recti by 6 months postpartum.
However, if the diastasis does not heal on its own, you can try a core strengthening exercise program.
Final Words On Preventing DR
Diastasis recti is an unfortunate complication that will happen to the majority of women during pregnancy.
But, you can do your part in trying to build and maintain a strong core prior to and during your pregnancy to possibly prevent it from happening.
Now I want to turn it over to you.
Did you try to do core strengthening exercises to prevent abdominal separation?
Did it help?
Comment below and let me know.
Related Posts on Diastasis Recti
- How Long Does it Take To Heal Diastasis Recti [The Honest Truth]
- Diastasis Recti After C-Section [Is It Different?]
- The Mommy Pooch: What Is It & How Is It Different From DR?
Get Started With A Free Postpartum Workout Plan To Rebuild Your Pelvic Floor, Heal Your Mommy Tummy, & Tone Your Arms & Legs!
Brittany N Robles, MD, MPH, CPT
Brittany N Robles is a full-time OBGYN, a NASM certified personal trainer, and health & fitness expert. She holds a Masters of Public Health degree in maternal health with a special interest in exercise and nutrition. She is also the co-author of The White Coat Trainer. Learn more about her here.
Sharing is Caring – Send This To A Mom In Need!