DRAM (DIASTASIS RECTI) – what you need to know
Abdominal Separation is known as DRAM, or Diastasis Recti. It refers to the stretching of the line of tissue (the linea alba) that runs down the centre of the rectus abdominis muscles (the ‘6 pack’ part of our stomachs).
It’s fairly common as the belly grows during pregnancy for this to happen, as the muscles need to ‘slacken off’ in order to make room for the baby. It doesn’t always create a ‘problem’ – but the severity of the gap can vary- and this is the main difference. Like anything it can be made worse or better by the things that we do in our daily life – so it’s important to know what those ‘things’ are.
What to do (and avoid) if you have DRAM –
- A disproportionately strong rectus abdominis can cause a larger separation due to it being excessively tight. This means it’s counterproductive to exercise this muscle on it’s own while you are pregnant (that means you don’t have to do a single crunch or sit up – hooray ;))
- Avoid exercises that produce a ‘coning effect’ – which is a long and raised lump that runs down the centre of your stomach where the linea alba is – it can make separation worse as this coning is abdominal contents pushing up through the gap. Generally this is any sort of crunch, heavy lifting or isometric holds (that includes planks) which can raise intra abdominal pressure and have a pushing out effect in the stomach. The best thing to do is have a look at your belly – if it’s coning – pick a different exercise.
- Do continue to work on your ‘core’ as a whole entity during your pregnancy – and aim for deep stabilisation rather than strength or power – that comes later.
Can Abdominal Separation be rehabilitated?
Generally – the answer is absolutely YES. The key is to measure the separation, figure out where along the linea alba it is most prominent, and then do segmental rehabilitation exercises that progress in difficulty as the gap decreases.
If you rehab it properly before you launch into the fancy and hard core exercise you will have a rock solid abdomen that can totally take the pressure. If you don’t, and there’s an unstable section, the body will always ‘break’ at the weakest link in the chain, which is when women get recurring pain, or injuries that keep coming back.