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Woman sitting in a yoga pose with hands together - the link between diastasis recti and breathing

The Link Between Diastasis Recti and Breathing

In the postpartum period, almost 50% of women experience diastasis recti, a separation of the two abdominal muscles that form the front wall of the body’s core. In many cases, the separation is minor and will resolve itself postpartum. However, sometimes, the recovery is not complete without a little bit of intervention, either through physiotherapy or other methods. What are the consequences of diastasis recti, and why does it sometimes not resolve itself? The answer to both of these questions may be in your breath.  

How You Breathe Matters

First, let’s clarify that diastasis recti does not cause breathing issues; however, the way you breathe may contribute to its development and make it more difficult to recover. Breathing requires the use of more muscles than you are probably aware of. Whether you breathe deeply or more shallow impacts the extent to which your core muscles are engaged and relaxed while you inhale and exhale. You can breathe into your chest (what most of us do), into your ribcage (which is better), or into your belly (making optimal use of your lungs). 

What’s the Connection?

Deeper forms of breathing into your ribcage and belly cause the muscles surrounding your core to expand and contract to a greater extent than if your breath is shallow, into your chest only. Ultimately, shallow breathing reduces the amount of activity your abdominal muscles get and, over time, can cause an imbalance which leads to diastasis recti. Pregnancy usually forces women into shallow breathing as the baby pushes the diaphragm up and out of the way. 

Belly Breathing

Belly breathing is beneficial in many ways, including putting pressure on the pelvic floor, which is good for pelvic fitness. However, if your core fitness is lacking, or you are already suffering from diastasis recti, belly breathing can exacerbate the effects and make a recovery more difficult. Breathing deeply into your belly creates outward pressure from inside your core. In severe cases of diastasis recti, the additional pressure can’t be contained and creates the familiar bulge. Breathing alone won’t solve the problem but read on to find out what you can do. 

Activity Level and Posture

For many women, pregnancy and postpartum results in a change in activity level – less physical activity means fewer deep breaths. Your posture may also change as you adjust to additional weight, a new center of gravity and spend more time than usual sitting or reclining. Posture and amount of physical activity tend to affect the way you breathe and therefore affects the use of core and pelvic muscles. 

What You Can Do

There isn’t much you can do when late-stage pregnancy prevents you from taking a deep breath. Even if you were a deeper breather before baby, it doesn’t mean you’ll make an automatic return to it afterwards. However, you can be aware of your breathing. Take a few minutes per day to practice deeper breathing and recognize the muscles that are in use. If you are experiencing diastasis recti, postpartum, look into treatment methods that stimulate and reactivate the muscles to help them work optimally, putting you on the road to better core and pelvic fitness.  

We specialize in helping women overcome core and pelvic dysfunction, including diastasis recti, urinary incontinence, and reduced sexual function. Our Venus Ab Rehab uses Emsculpt technology to stimulate and tone ab muscles without exercise or physiotherapy. Our curated education program teaches you how to maintain core strength after treatment, including posture and breathing techniques. Call us for a consultation.

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