Diastasis of the Rectus Abdominis in Pregnancy Risk factors and Treatment

Diastasis recti

 Diastasis recti?

Someone rightly said, ‘Being a mother is one of the most rewarding jobs on earth and also one of the most challenging one’. Motherhood, the most rewarding yet physically the most challenging experience.

On delivering a baby, a women experiences so many changes in her physical body. It is almost like a entirely new body for her, weaker than what it was before and shapeless too. A women goes through a lot of mental ruckus in trying to deal with these new changes.

These changes happen to every mother. Stopping or controlling them are not in any women’s hands. So why get sad brooding about them ? :) Better is to happily and comely accept the paunch, the hormonal changes, the weakening of bones etc and  enjoy the grandeur of being a mother.

I believe that the feel of being a mother might be so magnanimous that any female should become more responsible towards herself. And so she should ardently take care of herself so that with time she can overcome all the pregnancy changes like the paunch, the weaknesses, the hormonal imbalances :) Because healthy moms have healthy babies. Agree? :)

I want to discuss a very common pregnancy problem called Diastasis recti(The paunch that does not go post pregnancy)

What is Diastasis recti?

Diastasis recti (also known as abdominal separation) is a disorder defined as a separation of the rectus abdominis muscle into right and left halves. Normally, the two sides of the muscle are joined at the linea alba at the body midline. It is essentially a cosmetic condition, with no associated morbidity or mortality.

Diastasis of this muscle occurs principally in two populations: newborns and pregnant women.
In the newborn, the rectus abdominis is not fully developed and may not be sealed together at midline. Diastasis recti is more common in premature and black newborns.

In pregnant or postpartum women, the defect is caused by the stretching of the rectus abdominis by the growing uterus. It is more common in multiparous women due to repeated episodes of stretching. When the defect occurs during pregnancy, the uterus can sometimes be seen bulging through the abdominal wall beneath the skin.

 Diastasis recti

Check out the image above. There is a separation of the connective tissue (linea alba) between the outermost abdominal muscles (6-pack abs…Rectus Abdominus), Internal and External Obliques and the fascia of the transverse Abdominal.

How does Diastasis Recti look like?

 Diastasis recti

What Causes Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis Recti is the result of excessive intra-abdominal pressure or loading, & is common in the later stages of pregnancy, particularly second or subsequent pregnancies. The diastasis (the gap) narrows naturally in the days & weeks following childbirth, but often doesn’t come back together completely on its own, resulting in instability & weakness of the core & a ‘pooch’ stomach or ‘mummy tummy’.

Unfortunately when the 2 parts of the muscle separate as a result of this increased pressure, the connective mid-line is stretched & weakened as it takes all other muscular & fascial support structures along with it. This leaves the front of the abdomen unsupported & unstable.

How to test for Diastasis Recti?

Lie on your back with your knees bent & your feet flat on the floor. Relax your head & shoulders & place your fingers (palm facing you) just above your belly button.
Lift your head, neck & shoulders slightly off the floor & press down with your fingertips. If you feel a gap, that’s the diastasis. You will feel the muscles close in around your fingers as you lift your head & neck. Don’t lift your shoulders up too high. Repeat the test in two other place: directly over the belly button, & a couple of inches below.

Should you use a splint, belly binder or abdominal wrap to bring a diastasis of the rectus abdominis muscle back together?

diastasis is caused by inappropriate loading & pressure within the abdominal & pelvic ‘canister’. Wrapping it up in itself won’t fix it, it will just squidge your abdominal mass in a different direction You need to correct alignment & re-engage an entire SYSTEM of muscles & fasica to put your tummy back where you want it for the long term.

How Common is Diastasis Recti?

Over a third of women will have a gap of two fingers or more after their first baby. After second or subsequent pregnancies, this figure is more like two thirds, especially if the gap wasn’t closed effectively after the first.

What is the treatment of Diastasis Recti?

No treatment is necessary for women while they are still pregnant. Just that like I mentioned before, please work on strengthening your core and pelvic floor muscles. Read HERE. Diastasis recti can in some cases be corrected and/or mitigated by physiotherapy. diastasis recti is also corrected using a cosmetic surgery procedure known as a tummy tuck by creating a plication or folding of the linea alba and suturing together. This creates a tighter abdominal wall.

What are the exercises for the treatment of Diastasis Recti?

I would strongly say Pilates and Yoga for the strengthening of your core and pelvic floor muscles. Nothing can beat them. Also not all ab exercises are good in this condition. Infact some can even aggravate the condition. You will have to make sire that whatever exercise you do should focus on strengthening of your transverse abs Read How to Activate Core Muscles

Post Pregnancy use the exercises in this video along with cardio vascular exercises and physiotherapy.

Avoid crunches or jack knives as they are contraindicated exercises for this condition.

After having said all this, I would like to add that it is not harmful infact it is quite common and natural and tend to retrace on its own after pregnancy.

Image Source: 1 2 3

Cherish your motherhood. Cheers!
Also Read

Chocolate and Pregnancy
Yoga Exercises During Pregnancy
How to Dress During Pregnancy
Pregnancy- Myths, Diet and Abortion
A-Z Guide to Pregnancy Weeks
How to Lose Weight Post Pregnancy
Pregnancy: Diet to Conceive a Baby Girl
Pregnancy Diet for Conceiving a Baby Boy
How to Firm Stomach after Pregnancy
Post Pregnancy Abdominal Exercises
Right Nutrition during Pregnancy
Common Pregnancy Problems
Exercises to get a flat stomach after Pregnancy
Torch Infections During Pregnancy
How To Stay Fit and Look Good During Pregnancy
20 Points for Planning Your Pregnancy

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6 Responses to Diastasis of the Rectus Abdominis in Pregnancy Risk factors and Treatment

  1. Shaili says:

    This is quite an info :) Though I myself am no near becoming a mum or getting married(first), I am sure this is going to help many and may be to me also (in future)
    Thanks for sharing :)

  2. mona says:

    Hi Nidhi,
    I am over the moon on seeing this article as I have this condition and was desperately looking for some advice on exercising..U are my saviour

    • Nidhi says:

      Yes Mona, I got your email, wrote this article in reply to that. Do let me know if you want to know anything in specific :)

  3. Ramya says:

    Awesome article Nidhi. Very very informative :) Now I understand what u said abt crunches :)

  4. Roshna Rasheed says:

    Where do we get diastasis rehab splints in india…

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