Diastasis Recti: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Diastasis recti is a condition experienced by two out of every three women during and after childbirth. It can be described as an unusual bulge on the tummy or a ridge below and above the belly button. It is hard to detect during pregnancy but is noticeable postpartum, especially months after childbirth. It is a fairly common condition but is seldom discussed. However, knowledge of diastasis recti repair, causes, and symptoms is important for women’s health.

What is Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis recti is the separation of the rectus abdominis or abdominal muscles at the midline of the tummy. This separation can be partial or complete, depending on the severity of the condition. The stretching of the abdomen commonly causes it as the uterus makes room for a growing baby and the thinning of the connective tissue called the linea alba. However, it can also affect men who perform excessive or unsafe lifting and abdominal exercises. Even newborn babies can have it, although it usually goes away on its own.

How Do You Know if You Have Diastasis Recti?

In the second or third trimester during pregnancy, diastasis recti can be seen as a ridge below or above the belly button. After childbirth, it becomes a pooch or bulge in the belly area. Aside from this, lower back pain, constipation, and bloating are some common symptoms.

There is also a simple way to check yourself for diastasis recti:

  • Lie supine on the floor, feet down and knees bent at 90 degrees.
  • Support your head with one hand as you raise your shoulders off the floor then look down at your tummy. This move is similar to a mini crunch, and your abdominal muscles should contract at this point.
  • With your free hand, trace the midline of your abdomen above and below the belly button and try to feel for a gap between the muscles.
  • A gap with the length of two fingers or 20 cm is a moderate case of diastasis recti.

How to Prevent It

There are many options for diastasis recti repair or treatment, but prevention is your best bet. During pregnancy, doing the log roll maneuver when getting up is highly effective in protecting your vulnerable abdominal muscles. It means rolling on one side then pushing off with your arm instead of straining your core. It would help if you also avoided heavy lifting until after the delivery to avoid additional strain. Practice good posture, especially when sitting down. You can use a towel or pillow behind you for more support.

How to Treat It    

The first step to diastasis recti repair is a specialized workout. It usually involves pelvic floor and deep abdominal exercises. You must check with your doctor before attempting an exercise as improper execution or routine would do more damage than good. Once your doctor has given you an approved workout program, you can do it at home, preferably with a physical therapist.

There are also clinically approved workout videos available online from websites or intuitive apps. These websites and apps have an extensive database of workout routines, but they can also guide you with their customized programs. Your progress can be tracked easily, and you have access to the support of a helpful community of mothers who are also in the program. In rare cases where exercise fails to correct the condition, surgery is the last resort.