If you still have a bulging stomach that does not budge long after childbirth, you may be dealing with a condition more troubling than regular baby weight. Some women struggle to retain their figure long after birth due to the condition known as Diastasis Recti.
Regardless of its prevalence among pregnant women, awareness of this condition is very low. Many pregnant women and old and new mothers have never heard of Diastasis Recti. It is easy to misjudge Diastasis Recti as weight gained during pregnancy.
We hope this article sheds light on this condition and saves you much trouble.
What is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis Recti is a medical condition caused by a separation of the abdominal wall muscles. It occurs when the rectus abdominis, also known as the six-pack muscles, stretch sideways, causing damage to the connective tissue in the midline of the stomach.
Diastasis recti is a condition that usually occurs in childbearing women. Doctors expect some abdominal separation during pregnancy and after delivery and consider it generally normal. During pregnancy, the uterus stretches the abdominal muscles to accommodate the baby as it grows. Pushing during delivery can also extend the abdominal muscles further. Pressure on the muscles damages the connective tissues in the midline of the stomach, causing Diastasis Recti.
Contrary to popular belief, resources have proven that weight gain during pregnancy, the weight of the baby, and maternal age, do not influence the risk of developing Diastasis Recti.
Instead, childbearing women who are petite, above 35, carrying multiple babies at a time, have had more than one pregnancy, have poor muscle tone, or have poor posture are more likely to develop Diastasis Recti. Women who have a medical history of umbilical or ventral hernia and pelvic instability also stand a higher risk of developing Diastasis Recti.
Ideally, after a few weeks postpartum, the gap will start to narrow as your muscles regain strength. However, in many cases, the muscles are stretched so thin that they cannot bounce back to their former state.
Symptoms of Diastasis Recti
Diastasis Recti manifests mainly as a protruding stomach. It also causes issues such as the following;
• Back pain
• Urinary stress incontinence
• Painful sex
• Lower back pain
• Poor Posture
Who can get Diastasis Recti?
Anyone is at risk of developing this condition.
Childbearing women are at the highest risk of developing Diastasis Recti. Research indicates that up to 60% of childbearing women experience Diastasis Recti to some extent.
It is worth noting that although pregnancy is the primary cause of diastasis recti, any condition that bulges the abdomen forward can overstretch the connective tissue and cause the separation of the abdominal muscles, leading to Diastasis Recti.
Although Diastasis Recti is common in pregnancy, it can affect anyone, even newborn babies and men.
Newborn babies, especially babies born premature, may be delivered with the condition. Their abdominal muscles do not develop and connect fully before birth, and a gap forms between the abdominal walls. Diastasis Recti in newborns usually resolves on its own with time.
How to know you have Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis Recti is characterized by a stomach bulge or pooch that does not budge even after delivery. A bulging stomach is usually the telltale sign that you have Diastasis Recti. In addition, if you have nagging back pain, urinary stress incontinence, or any of the symptoms mentioned above, it will be good to see your doctor and get checked for Diastasis Recti. Although this condition requires a medical diagnosis, you can do a self-check to get yourself started.
Follow these steps to discover if a further visit to your doctor or physical therapist will be necessary. You can also find a video tutorial that you can follow visually.
1. Lie on your back, legs bent, feet flat on the floor.
2. Raise your shoulders off the floor slightly, supporting your head with one hand, and look down at your belly.
3. Move your other hand (your free hand) above and below your belly button and down your midline ab muscles. See if you can fit any fingers in the gaps between your muscles.
4. If you feel a gap or separation of one to two finger lengths, you likely have a moderate case of diastasis recti.
How to prevent Diastasis Recti?
Awareness of this condition is the first vital step towards preventing it. Intentional Steps have to be taken to protect the abdominal muscles during and after pregnancy.
Physical Therapists advise women to do the following during their pregnancy;
1. Avoid lifting heavy objects or straining the abdominal muscles.
2.Practice good posture.
3.Place a pillow or towel behind you when sitting to support your lower back.
4. To get out of bed, bend your knees, roll, and support yourself with your arm.
Physical Therapists also advise women to avoid performing the following activities immediately after childbirth;
- Avoid strenuous exercises where your ab muscles are bulging out.
- Avoid holding your baby on one hip if it causes pain.
- Avoid lifting or carrying heavy loads
- Avoid coughing without supporting your ab muscles
Treatment of Diastasis Recti
Diastasis Recti can be reversed using specific exercises that target the repair of the torn abdominal muscles. These exercises need to be recommended by a trained fitness instructor or physical therapist to make sure they are ideal for your unique condition.
In severe cases, doctors can perform a surgical procedure to repair Diastasis Recti. This procedure is referred to as a tummy tuck. Mothers should consider this as a last resort, only if they are sure that they have finished building their family.
Exercise can either help to strengthen your abdominal muscles or cause further damage to them. It is always safer to consult your physical therapist and fitness instructor before trying out any exercises. They will help you develop a safe workout routine suitable for you and your baby.
Coach Bino’s Postpartum Snatchback Program is designed to help new mothers bounce back and achieve their body goals after childbirth.
This program addresses the conditions that may hinder new mothers from reaching their body goals.
It also teaches the appropriate exercises to lose baby weight and Diastasis Recti.
- Dubin A. (2015, May 26), Diastasis Recti: The Postpartum Body Problem No One Talks About, https://www.parents.com/pregnancy/my-body/postpartum/diastasis-recti-the-postpartum-body-problem-no-one-talks-about/
- Every Mother, Diastasis Recti 101: What is Diastasis Recti? Everything You Need to Know, https://every-mother.com/diastasis-recti-101-everything-you-need-to-know-about-diastasis-recti/
- Diastasis Recti: What Is It, and How Is It Treated? https://www.healthline.com/health/diastasis-recti