Tummy gap. Diastasis recti. Abdominal separation. DRA. It comes under a few names, but what exactly is it? How do you check for it? And how can you fix it? Lauren Drinkwater has the answers…
As a postnatal instructor and PT to mums for over six years now, I answer questions about tummy gaps on a weekly, if not daily, basis. And to say I feel passionate about the fact that mothers are not well-informed or educated enough on this matter – a matter that affects such a large group – is an understatement. So let’s get started on this important, but little understood, subject…
WHAT IS THE TUMMY GAP?
Diastasis recti is the separation of abdominal or recti sheaths in our midline and results in the stretching of the connective tissues during pregnancy. In simple terms, it’s the separating of our six-pack muscles into two halves.
HOW DO YOU GET A TUMMY GAP?
During pregnancy, your baby is growing and needs extra space. Hormonal changes allow connective tissues (i.e the linea alba) to stretch and become lax allowing your body to accommodate your little peanut to grow and thrive in your belly.
This separation can sometimes show as a dark line in the middle of your bump (the linea negra). While this stretching is necessary during pregnancy it can cause problems after birth.
Being able to contain pressure tightly in your abdomen when lifting is necessary to support your spine and avoid injury. The weakened, stretched connective tissues do not allow this to happen.
HOW DO I CHECK FOR A GAP?
With feet placed directly underneath the knees at hip-width apart, place two fingers directly above the belly button with your head on the ground. Relax all muscles, take a deep breath, and slowly lift your head, neck and shoulders off the ground into a low-level curl up (not full crunch).
In this position, move the fingers up and down the midline (below and above the belly button length ways), as well seeing if you can fit more than two fingers width-wise.
If the gap is more than 2cm or two fingers, seek a check and help from a postnatal specialist, GP or women’s physio. If you’re still unsure, always get a second and third check. I had one client who I identified as having a three-finger gap. She then went to a few different doctors before the diastasis was diagnosed and she was finally offered physio.
HOW SOON DOES THE TUMMY GAP RETURN TO NORMAL?
For some new mums, separation will come back together and repair relatively quickly, usually within 10-12 weeks. For others it can take a bit more time, this can be down to genetics, lack of core strength prior to pregnancy, larger babies,