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Post-Baby Abdominal Blues: Could it be Diastasis Recti?

by Athletico1 Comment

Let’s be honest. If you have had a baby, you know that there are many things that no one tells you about what can and will happen to your body during and after pregnancy. One thing that is appropriate to discuss here is the development of a diastasis recti.

What is diastasis recti?

Rectus abdominus muscle: separation occurs between the two muscles resulting in a diastasis recti

What is a diastasis recti?
Diastasis recti is a separation of the rectus abdominus or the outermost abdominal muscles that run vertically from the breastbone and ribcage to the pelvis. The right and left portions of the muscle are separated by a line of connective tissue called the linea alba. With a diastasis recti the muscles separate and the connective tissue become thinner and weaker providing less support to the internal organs and the back. Anyone can develop a diastasis recti, but it is common during pregnancy due to pressure from the growing uterus in conjunction with the release of certain hormones, primarily relaxin. Multiple births or repeat pregnancy increases the risk of diastasis.

If left untreated, diastasis recti can cause back pain, pelvic pain, poor trunk stability, or pelvic floor dysfunction.

Appearance of a diastasis
A diastasis may appear as a ridge running down the midline of the abdomen. It can also present as a bulging lower abdomen. The diastasis will be more prominent during straining and may disappear when the muscles are relaxed.

How do you know if you have a diastasis?
Diagnosis of diastasis recti can be made during a physical examination by a physician or physical therapist. You can also check yourself for a diastasis. If post-partum, please consult with your doctor as to when it is safe to perform the test as healing times are different for vaginal and cesarean births.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and place three fingers on your stomach at your belly button with the fingers pointing downward.
  2. Relax your abdominal muscles and lift your head to tense your abdominal muscles. This will help determine how many fingers you are able to place between the two muscles.
  3. You will also want check 3 inches above and 3 inches below the belly button.
  4. One finger width is normal and more than one finger may indicate the presence of a diastasis.

If you suspect a diastasis recti is present, discuss with your physician and/or obtain a prescription for physical therapy to learn the appropriate exercises for treatment. Do not begin abdominal exercises if you suspect that you have this condition as traditional abdominal exercises such as crunches can worsen the separation.

Treatment for Diastasis Recti
In the post-partum population, diastasis recti can be decreased or closed by performing specific exercises that strengthen the transversus abdominus and pelvic floor musculature. The use of a splint to assist with the approximation of the two heads of the muscle may also be beneficial. Surgical correction is also an option for large separations that do not respond to conservative treatment.

If you would like to learn more from an Athletico physical therapist, please use the button below to schedule a complimentary injury screen at a clinic near you.

Click to Schedule a Complimentary Injury Screen

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

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Read more health resources related to these topics:

Physical TherapyPregnancyWomen's Healthabdominalsdiastasispregnancywomen's health

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