Diastasis Recti After Having a Baby

What is a diastasis recti?

Postpartum mother and abdomen
Photo © Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

A diastasis recti is the separation (diastasis) of the rectus abdominis muscle. It happens in pregnancy because of the expansion of uterus causing tension on this muscle, causing it to pull apart. Experiencing a separation in the abdominal muscles is more common in:

    After you give birth, you may notice that you have a pooch or area of skin that seems to poof out in the center of your abdomen. This may be the space left where the abdominal muscles separated. This is fairly common in the first couple of months after you have a baby.

    Sometimes you will find out that you have this separation earlier in pregnancy. This may be from your previous pregnancy. If you find this in pregnancy, you will want to avoid strenuous abdominal exercises after the first trimester. Postpartum you will need to screen for this separation before returning to working out your abdominal muscles. Your practitioner can help you find appropriate exercises until you are healed.

    You can ask your doctor or midwife to help you check for this condition after birth. It is a very simple check. With your clothes on, you will lay on your back and bend your knees at a 90° angle, feet flat. Your practitioner will ask you to simply put your chin to your chest while they feel the area between your muscles.

    If it is greater than two fingers, you will be diagnosed with a diastasis recti.

    A diastasis recti will usually clear up on its own but there are also exercises you can do to try to help treat the separation. Though the studies on this condition are not of high quality, it can be difficult to predict how well you will heal.

    There was one study showing that abdominal crunches worked best to close the gap in the muscles versus a drawing in exercise.

    Your practitioner will be able to tell if you have a hernia during this screen. Occasionally an umbilical hernia will occur in women after having a baby, necessitating surgery.

    Sources:

    Benjamin, D.R.; Van de Water, ATM; Peiris, C.L. "Effects of exercise on diastasis of the rectus abdominis muscle in the antenatal and postnatal periods: a systematic review". Physiotherapy 100 (1). March 2014.

    Harms, M.D., Roger W. Why do abdominal muscles sometimes separate during pregnancy?

    Mota P1, Pascoal AG, Carita AI, Bø K. The Immediate Effects on Inter-rectus Distance of Abdominal Crunch and Drawing-in Exercises During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period.  J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2015 Oct;45(10):781-8. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2015.5459. Epub 2015 Aug 24. 

    Continue Reading