How to check yourself for Diastasis Recti

pelvic floor postpartum Feb 13, 2023

I hear so many women confused about whether or not they have ab separation, so let's dive in. Hopefully this information will be helpful to you.


Diastasis recti (or abdominal separation) happens when the connective tissue between your two rectus abdominis muscles or “six-pack” abs become stretched beyond their usual capacity and move apart to allow more space. During pregnancy, the six-pack muscles stretch to TWICE their original length! In some women it resolves by itself after pregnancy, but for the majority of us (especially those of us over 30), it often requires a bit of help to bring the muscles back together again. But contrary to common opinion, diastasis recti (DR) is not unique to pregnant women. It can also be caused by weight gain, weightlifting without proper abdominal pressure management, and is also more common than you would think in men!


As a result of this muscle separation, you might notice (or feel) a gap down the midline of your belly that you can fit your fingers in between. You might also notice a "doming" or coning along your linea alba - the center of your belly (almost like a stomach mohawk) when you do things like leaning back or trying to sit up from laying down.


Research shows that 100% of pregnant individuals have DR in the third trimester, because the connective tissue between your rectus abdominis (called the linea alba), has to stretch to make room for your growing baby. When the linea alba is no longer holding your rectus abdominis muscles together, your abs can't function properly or fully support your low back. It's best to try to resolve it as quickly as possible, because the long-term effects can include back pain, poor posture, pelvic floor issues, incontinence, bulging stomach etc.




The best way to know for sure if you have DR is to be evaluated by a physical therapist, but this self-check can help you decide if you should schedule a visit:

  1. Lie down on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. With one hand under your head for support, perform a crunch by lifting your head just high enough to raise your shoulder blades off of the ground.
  3. Push two fingers downwards into the middle of your abdominal wall at your belly button.
  4. Repeat a few inches above the belly button and a few inches below.
  5. You are feeling for a space in between your two abdominal muscles.
  6. Keep in mind that even when they are tightly together, these are still two separate muscles, so being able to push your fingers in slightly (to your first knuckle) is completely normal. What you are looking for is anywhere along the linea alba where your fingers can sink down PAST your first set of knuckles.

An official medical diagnosis of a normal result (no DR) is when the space is less than two fingers of separation and firm, shallow space where your fingers can't sink in too deep. If you feel a separation greater than two finger-widths and your fingers can sink past your first knuckles, that is a sure sign that the linea alba in not supporting your abs, and you have DR.


However, despite this official medical diagnosis being "two fingers or more", from experience, a gap of 1.5 fingers (i.e more than just your belly button) can still cause issues with pressure management, can still contribute to back pain, pelvic floor issues etc. So in my humble opinion, it's best to keep working on closing the gap until it is completely closed if you truly are passionate about getting your body to function with utmost efficiency. Especially if you have a very active lifestyle and like to lift heavy things and want to be able to do all sorts of advanced core work.


The good news is that (despite common belief) there IS a way to fix DR without surgery. I was told that mine was so severe (we skinny folks tend to get it pretty bad when baby is particularly short on space), that there was no way mine would ever resolve without surgery. Mine is now COMPLETELY healed. So much so that I couldn't even show you where it used to be even if I wanted to. And that was after I spent the first two years postpartum being asked when I was due, with awful back pain and a huge abdominal mohawk anytime I tried to do anything remotely strenuous.


I had been doing all the wrong exercises. I had been making it all worse. And then I discovered a new way. And my signature program the Postpartum Protocol was born. Because I knew that this was too good not to share. I want everyone to know what we all (most of us) haven't been taught. So that we can all get safely back to the activities we know and love without injuring ourselves, without feeling weak or frustrated, and to feel EMPOWERED!


Click here to join the Mama Method revolution.


Questions about the program? Click here and ask away.

Emma xo


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