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Diastasis Recti During Pregnancy: What doming and coning looks like and how to avoid it

If you are pregnant or postpartum, check out this post which breaks down what doming/coning is, what positions you will most commonly see them in, and what to do if you start to see this occur.

Hello third trimester! I am now entering 29 weeks of gestation and full disclosure I had to double check my pregnancy app to make sure. Any second mamas out there that get it? This pregnancy has felt very similar to the first, but one thing I have had to do sooner is modify core and ab moves when I noticed coning/doming.

As we progress through pregnancy it's important to be aware of any signs of intolerances that you are not optimally engaging your deep core muscles and managing the intra abdominal pressure (IAP). The abdominal wall has the greatest amount of stress because as we grow a baby, the pressure goes out stretching the linea alba and down on to the pelvic floor. As this happens, the biggest sign of intolerance in the core is "doming or coning" down the midline of your stomach (linea alba). You may have heard this term before, but maybe you don't understand exactly what this means or what it looks like. In previous posts, we have talked about what happens to the core during pregnancy and diaphragmatic or 360 degree breathing, check these two posts out first and then come back to this post. This post will break down the WHY behind diastasis recti during pregnancy and how to ensure you are managing the pressure.

First let's talk about the why. Towards the end of your first trimester, beginning of the second trimester you will see some degree of ab separation. Diastasis Recti (DR) is describes as the separation of your left and right abdominal wall, which appears as a gap between the two sides. It is normal for your abs to separate during pregnancy to make room for baby.  It's possible for you to have more separation during pregnancy and for the gap to close naturally after birth, but it's something to pay attention to. This is why deep core breathing/diaphragmatic breathing is so important because it strengthens your TVAs (transverse abdominals). When pregnant and leaning back or up out of bed for example, this is where you will commonly see "coning/doming" or a ridge that occurs vertically down the center of your belly. You can avoid this by engaging your TVAs optimally. Again, these are the small muscles different from your larger rectus muscles-- which is often know as your 6 pack muscles. Check out the above blog posts for a full breakdown of what your TVAs are and watch the following IG live for a demo of what coning looks like.

Now, let's breakdown the most common exercise positions you will see this intolerance.

  1. During the first and second trimester (and occasionally in the third) if you are performing a move on your back (leg drops, chest press, glute bridges).
  2. Any position where your torso is even slightly leaning back and/or when you are getting in and out of bed/getting out of a chair.
  3. Overhead press of any kind. Ensure you are leaning forward slightly and engaging the core if you notice doming.
  4. Planks, push-ups, or any position where you are on all fours.

What to do when you notice this intolerance: 

  • Eliminate or modify the movement when the coning occurs. Try to re-engage the core by taking a deep inhale, exhaling and drawing the pelvic floor and belly button in and up, which should then engage and turn on your TVAs.
  • Drop to your knees when in a plank/push-up, performing a bird dog and focusing on breath is always a great mod.
  • I know we continue to say this, but simply focus on deep core breathing and engaging your transverse abdominals/deep core connective tissue. Perform side lying exercises or seated exercises and focus on lots of back and side expansion to decrease stress on the linea alba.
  • Loose the heavy weight. Move to free weights or bands when needed.

The below picture showcases doming/coning when I am not engaging my deep core muscles. You can see the bulge at the top and it gets larger towards my belly button.