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Most women suffer from Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation) during pregnancy and unfortunately for us the condition often remains post-partum.

Let’s take the medical jargon out. Diastasis Recti is simply the separation of your abdominal muscles.

Diastasis means separation and Recti refers to your rectus abdominis muscles – the most superficial muscles in the anterior abdomen, more commonly known as your abs.

Diastasis Recti can be caused by a variety of factors (and by the way can also affect men and children).

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  • The growing uterus during pregnancy. Basically as your tummy gets bigger, the muscles have to separate to accommodate the growing baby and the linea alba (connective tissue that holds those muscles together), stretches with them.
  • Weight gain in the abdominal area (ever seen one of those guys with skinny legs and a really round beer gut that look like a big ball?)
  • Incorrectly doing abdominal exercises like crunches or sit-ups. Sit-ups are not your friend and you shouldn’t do them if you have Diastasis Recti as they will make it worse.
  • Excessive intra-abdominal pressure from lifting heavy weights, bearing down improperly when giving birth or voiding bowels.

Whilst Diastasis Recti is neither life threatening nor dangerous, it can cause a variety of ongoing physical issues including:

  • A ’mummy tummy’ or  ‘guy gut’ that no amount of diet or exercise will shift.
  • Lower back pain – because your core muscles are so weak that your back muscles have to work overtime to compensate.
  • Pelvic instability – where your hips ache or constantly feel like they are slipping around.
  • Pelvic floor dysfunction – which is the technical term for when you can’t control the wee factor.
  • A hernia – when your intestines poke out of your tummy.
  • Digestive issues and bloating – often most evident at the end of the day.

The severity of the Diastasis depends on how far the muscles have separated and how thin and weak the linea alba (connective tissue) has become.

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Research into exact numbers of women who suffer Diastasis Recti is thin on the ground but more than 80% of the women we see at The Belly Firm who have had a pregnancy have Diastasis Recti of varying degrees.

Diastasis Recti can get worse with subsequent pregnancies which is why women often show earlier in their second or third pregnancies.

A fairly common Diastasis, like the one I had, is about five fingers (cms) wide. This can cause some or all of the symptoms listed above as well as a ‘pouch’ or mummy tummy, which makes some women feel like they still look pregnant years after they had their last baby.

The severity of your Diastasis can vary depending on how you carried during your pregnancy and how many children you have had.  Often women who have had twins or multiple births have a very wide separation but whether you end up suffering from Diastasis Recti often comes down to good old-fashioned genes.  The good news is, it doesn’t matter how long since you have had your last baby, Diastasis Recti can be healed.

Checking for Diastasis

The purpose of checking for a Diastasis is to determine two things: The distance between the two separated muscles and the condition (weakness) of the connective tissue.

Here are the ways you can check if you may have Diastasis:

  • Check your Diastasis in a back lying position with your knees bent.
  • With your fingers pointing toward your toes and abdominal muscles relaxed, put your fingers in your belly button and press down.
  • Now slightly lift your head and when the muscles first start to move to see how many fingers fit between the two muscles and how deep they go. The number of fingers you can fit into the separation is the approximate number of cms of your separation width.
  • Then check 3 inches above the belly button and 3 inches below the belly button. Most women have different widths at different places on their stomach.
  • If you see a bulge when you lift your head or you feel pulsing under your fingers, you know the condition of the connective tissue is very weak. This means it may take a bit more work to heal your separation.
  • To feel the distance between the two muscles, you may need to use the fingers from both hands.

So how can you fix it?

If you are lucky in Australia, a physiotherapist will come and measure you while you are still in hospital after childbirth to let you know if you have Diastasis Recti and they should also tell you how wide and deep it is. But that doesn’t always happen and many GP’s and obstetricians don’t take the condition very seriously or may even recommend surgery (which is only needed in extreme cases).

The good news is that Diastasis Recti can be healed in most women and usually doesn’t require you going under the knife.

Get a recommendation for a good women’s physio who specialises in the condition.

Did you experience Diastasis Recti? SHARE your experience with us in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

  • A great read – thanks for sharing this post.

    Reply

  • This was certainly informative, thank you.

    Reply

  • Wow, this is a really interesting article and provides useful information for me to consider.

    Reply

  • I didn’t know I had it but I went to the doctor due to a hernia, they also diagnosed separation. Still have it but it’s not too bad at this stage so no surgery needed.

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  • Mine separated while I was pregnant with my first. I was bending over to reach one thing in the fridge screamed in pain as it felt like someone cut my chest. My osteo closely monitored it for the rest of my pregnancy and after as it slowly healed. I had wo watch my movements so as to ensure I limited the damage and length of the separation. 4cm by the time I gave birth, lipucky it closed naturally after but it took time and exercise as well as being careful.

    Reply

  • A wealth if information in this article – no experience with this condition.

    Reply

  • I had this after the birth of my second. I was told it was 2-3 fingers wide. All I was told was to hold my stomach muscles together whilst doing sit ups

    Reply

  • I had this and was diagnosed in hospital. I was lucky it corrected but not using my stomach muscles while it healed has left me needing to do a lot of exercises to correct my muscle wastage.

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  • This was quite serious for me, as I had this along with several other complications. It wasn\’t until my child was 3 that someone picked up on it and insisted I get reconstructive surgery, aka tummy tuck. I thought I was just lazy, I did pilates, yoga, weights, you name it! It never got better, if anything a lot worse. I was getting to the point I was barely able to walk anymore, my back gave out, and I was relying on my piriformas muscles to support my entire body. I had 2 under 2 I would pick up and carry around. My physio told me i\’d be confined to a wheelchair soon. I remember waking up one morning not being able to get out of bed. I was in excruciating pain. I needed the ambulance to come get me and pump me full of strong pain relief.
    I had the surgery, and my separation was almost 30cm wide. Ridiculous right? The surgeon didn\’t even realise how bad it was until he cut me open. I now have permanent mesh to bind what was left of my abdominal muscles. They also took 2kg of skin! It was horrendous, but so very glad that I got it done.
    It\’s been 3 years now and I feel somewhat like my old self. However, I am now unable to have any more children. Didn\’t know that going in, but I doubt I\’d have been able to carry another child in the condition I was in prior to the surgery anyway.

    Biggest thing to check for. Stand up straight, feet apart and put your hands on your butt. Gently lean back as far as you can. If your stomach changes shape and creates a cone in the centre, you have a problem. Another check is to lie on the ground and try and \’roll up\’ like the do in pilates. If you can\’t get your shoulders off the floor without help or really rocking to get up, I\’d get it checked out asap.

    Reply

  • I had no idea that this could be corrected without surgery.
    I am seeing my Doc on Friday and I think I will discuss this with her and see if she can refer me to a Physio.

    Reply

  • I had a Women’s physiotherapist visit me during my hospital stay to assess this. I was very fortunate to have minimal separation of less than a finger (I attribute it to my clinical Pilates obsession). The hospital physio also provided me with a report to give to my regular physio so that my regular physio could factor in my recovery into our clinical Pilates program. I had assumed that the hospital physio visit was common practice so was very surprised that many of my friends never saw a physio in hospital.

    Reply

  • So I could still have it? I still have ‘baby belly’ :/ I just thought it was the thing after having babies, didn’t realise there could be more behind it


    • Yes you could still have this. As the article recommends, you could get the advice of a good women’s physio who specializes in the condition.

    Reply

  • yes for some who haven’t realised, you should put in the article that you will have tips to fix it on this site.

    Reply

  • seperation

    Reply

  • jeepers – this is an interesting article…. didn’t know there was such a thing

    Reply

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