Diastasis recti, often referred to as the "mommy pooch," is a common condition where the abdominal muscles separate due to a thinning of the linea alba. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding it, so in this blog post, we'll debunk some of these myths to help you better understand diastasis recti.
This is probably the most common misconception, and I receive Instagram messages daily from women asking if it's true. I even had one woman publicly call me a liar because her surgeon had told her that it was the only option, and she told me to "stay in your lane." While surgery may be necessary in rare and very severe cases, it is most definitely NOT the only solution. My own diastasis was 5cm (which is considered severe), and I, too, was told by my doctor that the only way to fix mine was with surgery. So, if you've been told the same, I GET IT! I feel your frustration. I've been there too. I healed mine using only diastasis exercises, and I know you can too! (But know that it does take time, consistency, and a good amount of willpower).
While it does become more likely the more pregnancies you've had, the reality is that it can affect anyone. Even men! The stretching of abdominal muscles during pregnancy is a primary factor, but genetics, lifestyle, the type of core exercises (and HOW we do them) also play a significant role. For example, in non-pregnant women (and men), repeatedly performing high-pressure core exercises without properly managing core pressure will weaken the linea alba over time, possibly resulting in diastasis. I always use the analogy of a house: you wouldn't build the 2nd floor of a house without first building the 1st floor, and of course the foundation. So really, we shouldn't be doing high-pressure ab exercises (such as crunches and sit-ups) without first building a strong foundation (the pelvic floor).
This is a controversial topic, and I know some of you will have very strong opinions on this. A recent medical study was published earlier this year claiming that curl-up exercises do not worsen diastasis in postpartum women. I have so much to say about this medical study that it should be its own blog post, but I'll try and keep it brief. First, this study took place in Scandinavia, with women whose average age was 34 years old, had only gained on average 33 pounds during pregnancy, who's diastasis was between 2.5-2.8cm, and who were between 6-12 months postpartum. Technically, diastasis is "supposed" to resolve itself within 12 months postpartum. It is more likely to do so on its own the younger we are, the less weight we gain during pregnancy, our knowledge of managing intra-abdominal core pressure, etc. If it were my study, it would've taken place in America with women 35-55 who had gained any amount of weight during pregnancy, who were AT LEAST one year postpartum, and whose diastasis was up to 5cm (as mine was). I would also have used a fitness instructor and not a physical therapist to teach the exercises in the trial, (because having someone who knows how to cue to reduce pressure could have completely skewed the results.) I'm confident the results would have been VERY different.
Furthermore, core exercises with a diastasis should be ones that actually work to make it better, not just "not making it worse." Traditional ab exercises like sit-ups and crunches can worsen the condition. The reason for this is that your core is like a pressure canister. And these kinds of exercises put an incredible amount of forward pressure on your abs, and continual strain on the linea alba, making it very unlikely that it will ever heal by itself. The key is to focus on diastasis-specific exercises that promote healing without putting additional strain on the abdominal muscles. Not all core exercises are created equal.
While the visible "mommy pooch" is frustrating for many women, diastasis recti is not just a cosmetic issue. It can lead to functional problems such as weak core muscles, lower back pain, and even pelvic floor dysfunction. Healing diastasis recti is about improving core strength and overall function, not just appearance.
Time is not a barrier to healing diastasis recti. While it's true that the sooner you start, the easier it will be, women who've had diastasis recti for years can still experience significant improvement with the right exercises and guidance. I was 2.5 years postpartum before I even STARTED working on my own 5cm diastasis. Consistency and patience are key.
Diastasis recti is a condition that affects many of us, but it's important to separate fact from fiction when it comes to myths and misconceptions. Surgery is not the only solution, and it's never too late to start the healing process. Targeted exercises can help you regain your core strength and confidence.
Click here to download my free Diastasis Training that will teach you some of my best tips and tricks to start the healing process.
The Mama Method is my 6-week signature program that contains all of the exact exercises I used to completely close my own 5cm diastasis without surgery. No more piecing together random youtube videos and hoping for the best. You’ll get access to the exact strategies I teach my private clients (without the massive investment).