Diastasis Recti - Frequently Asked Questions

Diastasis Recti is a hot topic for ladies and often we get asked the same questions.  

We have curated answers to the most frequently asked questions to help ladies understand this common condition.  We hope at the end of this article you are armed with enough information so that you are able to move and exercise safely; allowing you to heal and gain balance.   


What is Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis Recti (diastasis rectus abdominis or diastasis for short)  occurs when the rectus abdominis muscles (six pack muscles) are stretched and the muscles separate. 


Your Abdominal Muscles Explained!

Your rectus abdominis are the muscles that run down the front of your torso, and are divided into left and right side muscles.  These muscles are joined together by a band of tissue called the linea alba.  This tissue, made up mostly of collagen, runs down the middle of your stomach.  The linea alba effectively pulls both the right and left side of your abdominal muscles together.  

A good way to visualise it is that the linea alba are the strings on an 18th century corset and the muscles are the actual corset itself.  

Once the linea alba (strings) become stretched and loose, it will result in separation of the muscles (corset).  


What is a normal Diastasis Recti?

A normal Diastasis Recti is when the linea alba is taut and strong enough to keep your abdominal muscles together.  This ensures that your core is not compromised and that you are able to function.  

To use the 18th century corset analogy again - the strings of the linea alba are tied firmly and the abdominal muscles, your natural corset, keeps your core, torso and all the organs aligned and in place.  


What does a Diastasis Recti Belly Look like?

When you have a diastasis recti, the belly can bulge or stick out for months after you have lost weight or when you have given birth.  This is often called the muffin top or mummy tummy.  

Another sign that you have diastasis recti is when your belly cones or domes when you lean back in your chair, get out of bed, or do common exercises like crunches or planks.

You can check for diastasis recti on your own, but it is better to contact a person who works with people with this condition, such as a personal trainer, physiotherapist or other healthcare professionals who specialise in treating diastasis recti. 


Why does diastasis recti happen?

Being pregnant or overweight places a lot of pressure on your abdominal muscles (your abs).  

The abdominal muscles are pushed outwards and are stretched for the growing baby or when your body is storing fat.  

When this happens the linea alba becomes overstretched and doesn't come back together.  The left and right sides of the abdominals stay separated.  

This gap is the diastasis recti, commonly referred to as ab gap or abdominal separation.  

If you do not exercise your core, or have an unhealthy pelvic floor, you are more susceptible to suffer from diastasis recti when you have multiple pregnancies. 

It is therefore extremely important to ensure you are exercising your core, which will help to  maintain a healthy pelvic floor before you fall pregnant. 


Who Gets Diastasis Recti and How do I know I have it?

Diastasis recti is most common in pregnant, postpartum women, and adults or children who are obese.  

For pregnant women, diastasis recti usually develops in the third trimester, as there is an increased pressure on the abdominal wall as the baby grows quickly during this time.  Many mums won’t know they have abdominal separation until the baby is born. The same is true for obese people who have lost all their excess weight.  


What are the symptoms?

Diastasis recti is not painful.  People may feel pain associated with some of the side effects of diastasis recti (e.g. painful back ache), but the abdominal separation itself does not hurt.

The common symptoms or signs that you are suffering from diastasis recti during postpartum or post weight loss are:

  • Coning or doming when you contract your abdominal muscles. E.g. when you lean back in your chair, get out of bed or do common exercises like crunches or planks.
  • When your fingers sink deep into your stomach around the belly button.
  • When you have a soft or jelly-like feeling around your belly button.
  • A visible paunch, commonly referred to as muffin top or mummy tummy, that protrudes just above or below your belly button.
  • Pelvic or hip pain.
  • Poor posture. 
  • Weak feeling in abdominals especially when contracting abdominal muscles.  
  • Lower back pain
  • Pain during sex
  • Urine leaking when you jump, sneeze or cough
  • Constipation 
  • Difficulty lifting objects whilst bending outwards
  • Difficulty walking or performing everyday activities


Is Diastasis Recti Common?

Yes it is! 

In an era where many people are sedentary, are not aligned properly, and do not breathe properly - this easy way of living has caused all kinds of conditions to become common, including diastasis recti.

According to the statistics published in the National Library of Medicine in August 2021, diastasis recti occurs most frequently during pregnancy and resolves itself after childbirth in most women. 

The above article showed the following statistics: 

  • 33% of women who were 12 months postpartum still suffered from diastasis recti.   
  • 39% of women who were older, had given birth and were going through hysterectomy surgery, had diastasis recti.  
  • 52% of women who were menopausal and needed pelvic treatment and/or reconstructive surgery, suffered from diastasis recti indicating that the condition can remain long after childbearing years.

Diastasis is also frequently present in men and children, but there are not enough statistics to discuss how many of them suffer from diastasis. 


How do you diagnose Diastasis recti?

Your healthcare provider, physiotherapist or physical trainer who is trained to work with women suffering from diastasis recti can help with the diagnosis.  

They will normally see if diastasis is present, where it is located and how severe it is.  

Diastasis can occur above, below or directly around the navel.  Below you can see what is a normal abdomen and also where the diastasis can occur around your navel.

To find out exactly where the separation is, your trainer, therapist or provider will use their hands and fingers to feel the stomach area for gaps and changes in muscle tone.  

Some healthcare providers may also use ultrasound, a measuring tape or a tool called a calliper for a more accurate measurement.  This type of exam will happen during a postpartum appointment where you will be cleared for exercise.  

An abdominal gap of more than two centimetres is diagnosed as diastasis recti.  If your trainer, therapist or provider is using finger widths, then anything over two fingers separation is diagnosed as diastasis recti.  


Can I test myself for Diastasis recti?

Yes, it is possible for you to test yourself for diastasis recti:

  • Lie down on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Lift your shoulders and head off the ground, as if you are doing a sit up.  As you lift up, look down at your belly.
  • Move one of your hands to the area where your ribs join, palms down and fingers towards your toes.
  • Use your fingers to feel for a gap as you work towards your belly button, past it and further down and see how many fingers can fit in the gap between your right and left abdominals muscles. Make a note of the gap at each point as you work down the middle of your stomach.

If you feel a gap of a width of two or more fingers, contact a person who specialises in diastasis recti.  They will be able to confirm diastasis with proper diagnosis and recommend the appropriate exercises and management protocols to aid your recovery.  


Do I need surgery to fix Diastasis recti?


It is possible to fix a diastasis recti without surgery.  

Health care providers have used surgery to fix diastasis recti when there has been a hernia or prolapse.  However, with the correct physical therapy and exercises, these conditions have rectified themselves.  

The right help, dedication and commitment is needed to aid recovery. 


Can Diastasis Recti be cured?

Yes, it can with the right exercises and modifications to your lifestyle such as correcting posture and alignment and breathing using correct form. 

If you seek help from a professional, they will give you a programme that consists of targeted exercises in accordance to the severity of your condition. 

Remember: commitment and consistency play a big part in completing the programme given to you by your trainer or therapist to cure diastasis recti.  

Our students have healed their abdominal gap within 6 weeks of dedicated and consistent effort in completing targeted exercises.  To top it all off, these ladies went on to safely take up body and weight training, martial arts and cross fit in their 40s!  


What Things Make Diastasis Recti Worse?

Any daily movement or exercises that create pressure behind the abdominal wall, causing it to dome or cone forward will lead to more damage and create further separation resulting in other complications such as umbilical hernias. 

It's important to be mindful about how you are using your abs throughout your day.

The types of exercises you should avoid if you have been diagnosed with diastasis recti is:

  • Planks and push-ups 
  • Any forward bending - standing or seated
  • Hollow body hold
  • Bench press using weights 
  • Double leg lifts and scissors 
  • Downward dog, inverted poses, boat poses and some other Pilate and Yoga moves that worsen your condition
  • Any exercises that cause pressure behind the abdominal wall causing it to bulge, cone or dome. 


What can I do to prevent diastasis recti?

There are a few things you can do to prevent diastasis recti:

  • Maintaining healthy core and pelvic health from a young age so that when you fall pregnant your abs are able to recover and regain proper alignment postpartum.  
  • Ensuring you are safely exercising and avoiding any exercises, weight lifting (body or otherwise) that causes the abs to bulge, cone or dome
  • Eating a healthy diet and exercising daily so as to avoid weight gain which may cause pressure on the abdominal wall
  • Being mindful of your posture as you move throughout the day.  Standing straight with your hips and ribs stacked and your shoulders down way from your ears.
  • Ensuring you are aligned as you take deep breaths that allow your ribs to expand out and not your belly.
  • Ensure you are lifting things, such as your children and shopping in a safe way so as not to cause pressure behind the abdominal wall.  
  • As you sit and raise up off your chair, hinge as you do so, reducing the pressure on your abs.
  • If you are overweight, pregnant or postpartum and suffering from diastasis recti, roll onto your side and use your arms to push yourself up out of a lying position.  


How long will it take to heal my diastasis?    

This is like asking, “how long is a piece of string”!  It all depends on your attitude, motivation and commitment to targeted exercises that your therapist, trainer and healthcare practitioner provide.  The more you put in the more you will reap the rewards.  

An Ambba™ student who was diagnosed with a prolapse as well as diastasis recti, healed with 6 week's of dedication and commitment! With the same attitude, you can too.  


Once I heal, can I suffer from diastasis recti again?

Yes, you can.  If you do not exercise your core, have multiple pregnancies and are not mindful of your core exercises, alignment, posture and proper breathing - you can suffer from diastasis recti again. 

It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle so that you can avoid the condition returning in the future. 


Am I Too Old To Fix My Diastasis Recti?


No, you are never too old to heal it.  Ladies in their 40s and 50s have successfully healed their abdominal separation years after losing weight or having babies.  


What complications can I experience if I don’t treat my diastasis recti?

If untreated, or in severe cases of diastasis recti, it can lead to conditions such as:

  • Urinary incontinence 
  • Prolapses
  • Umbilical hernia
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Back pain
  • Pelvic and hip pain (during and after pregnancy)


Who Should I See To Help Me Fix My Diastasis Recti

As mentioned above, diastasis recti is a common condition that can be easily healed with the correct exercises and lifestyle changes.  If you have more than a two finger gap and are suffering from related pains and conditions, get a referral to a physical therapist or a pelvic floor specialist like us to help strengthen your core and pelvic floor.  


Final thoughts…….

Many ladies don’t know they suffer from diastasis recti and try all kinds of exercises that cause the mummy tummy to get worse.  

This has a knock on effect on confidence and morale and thoughts will set in like “this is how it is for me now.”  and “this is my new normal!”  All exercises will stop and the condition worsens where women will look pregnant years after giving birth to their last child.  

There is hope!  You can heal!  And you can get your flat tummy back again!  

Approach the right health care provider, physiotherapist or teachers like myself who give guided and targeted exercises so that you are able to recover and bring your natural corset back to reveal your wonderful, strong abs again.  

And better still - you could become that weightlifter, martial arts expert, pilates person you have always wanted to be. Or perhaps even that cross fit queen crushing all the sets thrown her way.  

Getting the right help, practising targeted exercises, breathing and aligning yourself properly - all of this will help to make you feel confident again and help with any uncomfortable pains you feel. 

You don’t have to suffer alone, take the hardest first step and contact us to start your healing journey.  

If you have any questions, leave a comment below.  Looking forward to connecting with you :)


Published on Nov 7, 2023 • 5 min read
Category: Body


I'm the creator of the Ambba™system that helps ladies like you to achieve overall mental well-being and physical health in a hectic world.


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