The Dreaded Diastasis Rectus Abdominis – The Do’s and Dont’s

Do I have a Diastasis?

You’ve had your baby and over the next year or two your body is slowly but surely returning to where it was before. You are back into your regular exercise regime but even though you are working out hard, there is that one area around your belly that doesn’t look quite like what it used to. You sink down into a bit of a gully when you feel down the centre of your abdomen and when you are doing your core exercises, you notice that this area pooches outwards rather than staying flat??? You are now wondering if you have a diastasis and if so, is it only women who have given birth that might have this issue?

What is a Diastasis?

Fingers sinking into the diastasis

A separation or stretching of the linea alba and the right and left halves of the rectus abdominis muscle away from the midline. The linea alba is a connective tissue that the rectus abdominis muscle inserts into. When there is more force through this area than what the tissues can handle, they will become overstretched. This can create a ‘dip’ or ‘gully’ along the centerline of your abdomen anywhere between your xiphoid process (at the bottom of your sternum) and your pubic bone.

Have a look at this link to know, “How to find a diastasis”

Who gets a Diastasis?

  • Most commonly, it is women who have had babies
  • Infrequently, newborns
  • Women who have not had babies, and men. Oftentimes these groups experience a diastasis due to either too much force experienced in the body with not enough abdominal support; performing core exercises with poor ‘core’ support or performing hundreds of sit ups per day

Why do we care if we have a diastasis?

A diastasis may or may not be a problem. Oftentimes the width of a diastasis can become narrower whereas other times the width stays the same. If you are not visually disturbed by the gap and you don’t experience any low back, hip or pelvic pain caused by the diastasis, then nothing more may need to be done. Women who are visually disturbed by the diastasis may elect for surgery. If you have pain that appeared to coincide at the same time as having the diastasis it is a good idea to seek out treatment.

What’s the first step in helping my diastasis?

It’s always a good idea to have a pelvic floor physiotherapist assess your diastasis. This will give you the time to ask all the questions you have and the physiotherapist can ensure that you are able to generate good tension in this area. Learning proper breathing techniques, positioning and engaging well with your transversus abdominis muscle will be part of the session.
Once you know how to engage properly, the do’s and don’ts surrounding core exercises and how to move around throughout your day while protecting your diastasis, you can work on your diastasis specific exercises.

A relaxed posture


Pulling up and in with the lower belly muscles


  • Engage your transverse abdominis muscle (lower belly) muscles rather than only your oblique muscles
  • Incorporate some lateral breathing so the amount your belly opens outward is less than what would be used with diaphragmatic breathing
  • Engage your transverse band (part of your stabilizing system) BEFORE you move, change position, get in and out of the car, pick up baby


  • Don’t do sit ups, 2 legs lowering, heavy weight lifting, twisting with weights
  • Don’t just sit up from lying down…rather, roll to your side, engage your support muscles, then sit up
  • Don’t feel overly concerned about this…it is very common and very treatable

The muscles that I refer to as ‘stabilizing’ muscles, are doing just that…their job is to support you. Our abdominal stabilizing muscles include the transverse abdominis, the diaphragm, the pelvic floor muscles and the deep multifidus muscles.  They should be on BEFORE you reach for your coffee cup….but sometimes they are a little tardy and they come on milliseconds afterwards. This just means you have to retrain them. And the good news is that if you don’t already know how to use your stabilizing muscles well, you will now! And, you can incorporate a lot of this into your day rather than having to schedule yet another hour away from your regular duties to do a bunch of exercise!

See next weeks post for a selection of safe diastasis specific exercises…



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