DRA is the acronym for diastasis of the rectus abdominal muscles, which is the separation that occurs during pregnancy to the abdominal muscles, to allow the baby to grow. This DRA occurs usually in the second and third trimester of pregnancy and can remain post pregnancy. It is suggested that post-natal DRA can lead to lower back pain and pelvic instability, and even develop urinary incontinence
The “acceptable” level of separation is less than 2 fingers at the level just below the belly button. You can check how much separation you have with this simple test:
1. Lay down on a hard surface with your knees bent and place a small cushion under your head.
2. Slide your fingers down towards your belly button and sink your fingers into your belly as you pass your belly button
3. As you pass below your belly button slowly sink 3 of your fingers into your tummy feeling your tummy muscles touch the side of your finger
4. Lift your head and bring your chin towards your chest to tighten the abdominals
5. Feel your abdominals squeeze your fingers, slowly remove each finger until you can feel your abdominals slightly pressing on the side of your fingers
6. Whatever fingers remain is approximately how many cm of separation you have
7. It is good to check the area just above and below your belly button too
The categorization of DRA is as follows:
· Normal < 2 fingers
· Mild DRA 2-3 fingers
· Moderate DRA 3-4 fingers
· Severe DRA > 4 fingers
Is there a way to manage this?
YES!!! The best ways to manage DRA during and post pregnancy involves movement education ie learning how to reconnect with your body and allow the deep muscles of your core to learn to work as a team once more. In more sever circumstances external supports may be useful and of course as a last resort surgery is an option.
While activity modifications can be useful in the short term and involve learning how to get in and out of deep chairs and bed, in the long term it is essential to relearn how too effectively and efficiently control and move your body. Exercises that help this learning journey include Pilates - for a more detailed outline of a Pilates journey post pregnancy please read our 'Exercise After Pregnancy' - these sessions will educate your on gentle core activation and pelvic floor exercises and ensure you are doing these exercises correctly!
External supports can help mimic the function of the abdominals, simple supports such as tubi grips and recovery shorts have been known to help.
It is always advised to seek our professional help when it comes to the management and education of DRA at BPS we have a variety of experienced women's health physio's who can help your with finding a solution that works for you, if you would like more information please don't hesitate to ask us a question here!