How do I minimize diastasis recti during pregnancy?
A general rule of thumb for exercising during pregnancy is that you can continue doing the exercises your body is used to be doing. In other words, you shouldn’t try to set a new record while being pregnant nor should you be too afraid of doing the type of training you are used to do.
When the uterus is growing during the pregnancy it puts pressure on the two bands of abdominal muscles that meet in the middle of the stomach. That can cause the two abdominal bands to separate which is a condition known as diastasis recti. If you want to read more about diastasis recti, go to this article What is diastasis recti during pregnancy?
There are some exercises that put extra pressure to the abdominal bands and may therefore increase the separation between them. Exercises that contain heavy lifting is one of them. Being careful with the choice of weight after the first trimester is therefore advised. Other exercises that add pressure to the abdomen are crunches, sit-ups and planks. If you are not used to doing these exercises you should avoid doing them at all after the first trimester.
If you are used to exercising quite a lot you are more likely to keep good form with contracted inner abdominals and pelvic floor muscles which counter the extra abdominal pressure. You may be able to do crunches, sit-ups and planks for a longer period of time during your pregnancy than women who aren’t used to these types of exercises. Be reminded though stop as soon as you see tendencies of a bulging ridge along your belly.
If you want to be on the safe side, stick to exercises that solely train the inner abdominals (pelvic floor muscles and transverse abdominals). They are a safe choice after the first trimester. Read about exercises for the inner abdominal muscles here.
To summarize – always engage your pelvic floor muscles and your transverse muscles whenever you move. These muscles carry the weight of your belly by bringing your baby closer to your spine which supports your posture. Good posture means that the pressure to the abdomen is reduced and that is key to minimizing diastasis recti. Good luck!
Disclaimer: Always consult with your doctor to get an “all clear” to start exercising.