DRA: What the heck is it and do I have it?

If you are pregnant or have recently given birth, you’ve likely heard the term “DRA” mentioned once or twice. If you’ve never heard of DRA, that’s ok — that’s what we’re here for.

I recently sat down with pelvic floor physiotherapist, Tesca Andrew-Wasylik, to chat about these three letters that so many post-partum women fear, without really knowing why.

So, what exactly is DRA? //

There’s a line of connective tissue called the linea alba that lies in between your two abdominal muscles. During pregnancy, it stretches out and increases the space between your abs leading to diastasis rectus abdominus (DRA). Now, remember that this stretching is a natural process that is necessary to make space for your beautiful babe!

 

How do I know if I have DRA? //

DRA happens in every pregnant woman around the second/third trimester and may appear as a dark line down the centre of your belly (also known as linea alba). Diastasis rectus abdominus generally resolves naturally within the first year with the greatest recovery occurring in the first 8 weeks after birth. Some women will experience persistent DRA and may have doming or sagging of the abdomen but it is also common to have DRA and still have normal function of your core muscles.

A pelvic health physiotherapist can assess and determine if treatment is necessary and create an individualized treatment plan as there is no one “cure-all”. It’s really important to note that you do not require a doctors note for pelvic health physiotherapy. Treatment can include corrective exercises, pelvic floor recruitment, and timing with co-activation of the core muscles, postural corrections, and splinting if required.

DRA generally resolves naturally within the first year with the greatest recovery occurring in the first 8 weeks after birth.

If you have insurance benefits, there is a chance that you will have some coverage as this treatment falls under the general umbrella of physiotherapy.

 

How can DRA be treated? //

Unfortunately,diastasis rectus abdominus can’t be completely resolved during pregnancy but prehabilitation –or “prehab”– exercises performed with a pelvic health physiotherapist can help increase core function and reduce DRA width both during pregnancy and in the transition period to when you begin your post-partum corrective exercises.

Surgical treatment is another option but only corrects the widening of the linea alba and has no effect on its laxity or strength. (Whomp whomp.)

 

Things to avoid //

In order to limit the severity of DRA, it’s best to avoid the following movements:

  • Sit-ups (getting up from bed)
  • Crunches
  • Rotational movements without proper co-activation of the core muscles

 

How can I find a pelvic health physiotherapist? //

If you live in Canada this site is a great resource for finding a pelvic health physio.  Or, ask other moms in your community for a personal referral as you might feel more comfortable seeing someone others have had success with.

 

DRA diastasis rectus abdominus

 

Did you experience moderate to severe diastasis rectus abdominus during your pregnancy? Did you try treatment with a pelvic floor physiotherapist? I’d love to hear your story! Please share with me in the comments. 

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