Diastasis Recti (AKA Mummy Tummy, Abdominal Separation or DRAM)

The clinical definition of Diastasis (or Diastasis Recti) can be a little daunting so we’ve tried to take all the technical, foreign sounding words and explain them in easy to understand terms.  Diastasis Recti is sometimes referred to as DR, DRAM, Abdominal Separation or Split Abdominals. 

Lana Dawkins, clinical Pilates instructor and owner of Bodyfit Pilates & Yoga explains Diastasis Recti in this short video.

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What is Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis means separation (from the Latin) and recti refers to your rectus abdominis muscles (the most superficial muscles in the anterior abdomen, more commonly known as your abs.) So literally diastasis recti means that your abs have separated. This condition is also known as Diastasis Rectus Abdominis Muscles, or DRAM.

You have 4 layers of muscle in your anterior abdomen with the rectus abdominis sitting closest to the surface of your skin. Underneath it, in descending order, are the external obliques, internal obliques and the transversus abdominis. All four muscles play a part in holding the top half and the bottom half of your body together; providing support to the spine; containing the viscera (abdominal organs); and, allowing movement in the trunk.

Your rectus abdominis muscle runs down the center of your stomach, attaching at the breastbone and the pubic bone. It is known as a ‘twinned’ muscle because it consists of two halves, which lie on either side of the belly button. The two halves are enclosed and attached to each other by thin, tendonous connective tissue known as the rectus sheath. 

The lateral abdominal muscles (external obliques, internal obliques, transversus abdominis) wrap around the sides of the abdomen ending just near the outer edges of the rectus abdominis. Attached to the ends of all three muscles are tendonous expanses of connective tissue (known as the aponeuroses.) The aponeuroses combine to form the rectus sheath. This connective tissue completely encloses the rectus abdominis and, where it meets at the midline, forms a horizontal line running directly down your stomach – this is known as the linea alba. When you have diastasis recti not only have your abdominal muscles separated, the connective tissue between them - the linea alba - has overstretched and become thin and weak. 

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Causes of Diastasis Recti

We are all born with our rectus abdominis separated but in most people they come back together somewhere around three years of age. However, the muscles are always susceptible to separating again if placed under continuous pressure or force.

Examples of pressure or force include:

  1. The growing uterus during pregnancy
  2. Weight gain in the abdominal area
  3. Incorrectly doing abdominal exercises
  4. Excessive intra-abdominal pressure (from lifting heavy weights, bearing down improperly when giving birth or voiding bowels.)
  5. Excessive coughing or sneezing

 As a result diastasis recti can affect anyone - men, women - whether you have had children or not- and even children.

How to check for Diastasis Recti

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Health Risks of Diastasis Recti

When you have diastasis recti the two halves of the rectus abdominis muscle have pulled laterally away from each other and the connective tissue between them – the linea alba - is stretched, becoming thin and weak. Because these muscles form part of the support system for your back and abdominal organs, when they separate this support system is compromised. The belly paunch that often accompanies diastasis recti is actually caused by your abdominal organs shifting forward into your stomach wall. Instead of being held in place by your abdominal muscles your organs are now being held in place by a weak, thin piece of connective tissue – a little like Glad Wrap.

Whilst diastasis recti is neither life-threatening nor dangerous, it can cause a variety of physical issues including:

  • A ’mummy tummy/ guy gut’ that no amount of diet or exercise will shiftLower back pain
  • Pelvic instability
  • Pelvic floor issues (incontinence or trouble controlling urination at times)
  • Increased risk of developing a hernia
  • Poor posture
  • Tilted uterus
  • Digestive issues (feeling bloated or other digestive problems)

The severity of your diastasis depends on how far the muscles have separated and how thin and weak the connective tissue has become. 


Restore Your Core

Lana Dawkins, clinical Pilates instructor and owner of Bodyfit Pilates & Yoga takes you through a 20 minute Restore Your Core workout.