Postpartum diastasis recti: Symptoms, exercises, pictures | BabyCenter

Thứ Năm, ngày 14/07/2022 - 09:10
Postpartum diastasis recti: Symptoms, exercises, pictures | BabyCenter

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As your pregnancy progresses, the connective tissue that joins your recti muscles thins and widens to make room for your growing baby, in a process called diastasis recti. After the baby is born, this can remain, creating a vertical bulge that can vary in size and take time to heal. There are diastasis recti exercises that may help, although it can take up to a year for the abdominal wall to fully return to normal.

The rectus abdominis muscles in your abdomen – the ones associated with the "six pack" look – are a pair of long, flat muscles that run vertically down each side of your abdomen. These muscles hold in your internal organs and stabilize your core.

As your belly expands during pregnancy, the connective tissue that joins the two sides of the muscle thins and widens, making room for your growing baby. This change in the connective tissue and increased distance between the two sides of the recti muscles is called diastasis recti. (Pregnancy hormones also play a role by relaxing the connective tissue to accommodate your growing baby.)

After pregnancy, this separation can remain, and the middle portion can bulge upwards or sink inwards whenever you contract your tummy. In addition, there may be weakness in the muscles of the abdominal wall that can make your belly protrude.

Diastasis recti tends to become prominent when you're straining to do something like coughing or sitting up, for example, and it may disappear or cave in when you lie down or relax your abdominal muscles. These pictures illustrate what diastasis recti looks like inside:

Most postpartum women will find that their diastasis distance will reduce over time, but if this doesn't happen in three to six months, you may have a gap that won't close without the help of a physical therapist that specializes in women's health.

Here's how to tell if you still have diastasis recti after delivery: Lie on your back, with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Place your hand's palm down over your belly, with your fingers pointing toward your toes. Press your fingers gently into your navel area then slowly lift your head, drawing your chin to your chest. This causes your rectus abdominis to contract.

If you feel a gap of at least two finger widths between the muscles as they contract, you have a diastasis. A gap as wide as four or five fingers is considered severe. Repeat the procedure below and above your belly button because the separation may be wider in different places.

It's important to rebuild your core strength and improve abdominal muscle strength with a gentle, progressive exercise routine. You can often correct a diastasis with specific exercises, but you'll need guidance from a physical therapist. See our article on postpartum abdominal rehab for more information on how to find one and how to do some of the most common diastasis exercises. (They can also help women who still look pregnant and have trouble strengthening their core, even if they don't technically have diastasis recti.)

If your diastasis recti is severe, and you don't plan to get pregnant again, surgery may be an option, especially if you've done all you can with physical therapy but are still struggling with a weak core.

Surgery to repair diastasis recti involves stitching the abdominal wall muscles back together along the midline. In some cases, a surgeon may be able to do the procedure laparoscopically (using a tiny camera and instruments inserted through small incisions). Severe diastasis recti requires open abdominal surgery through a larger incision.

If you do plan to have more children, surgery is not recommended since the abdominal muscles will need to separate again for those pregnancies. But it's still a good idea to work with a physical therapist to strengthen your core, since that may cause diastasis recti to be less pronounced in the future.

If you can, it's a good idea to begin doing exercises to strengthen your core before you become pregnant. Consider consulting with a physical therapist who specializes in women's health, about how to keep your abdominal wall strong during and after pregnancy. Keep in mind that you won't cause diastasis recti by doing ab exercises, and remember that it's a normal condition that plays a role in making room for your growing fetus.

There's no reason to stress about this condition, as it's not something that will negatively affect your pregnancy or recovery. Things like genetics, number of pregnancies, weight gain and baby size all contribute to how wide your diastasis recti will be, but even if you do develop a wide diastasis, there's a good chance it will improve after your pregnancy.

Core work isn't just to prevent diastasis recti. Research suggests that stronger abdominal muscles throughout pregnancy can support your pelvic floor to reduce frequent urination and increase lower back support – which is hugely important as your pregnancy progresses and pulls your weight forward.

No. With proper care, you can close a gap even years after you delivered your last baby. How long it takes to heal depends on the severity of your diastasis recti and the effectiveness of physical therapy or, in some cases, surgical intervention.

Keep in mind that diastasis recti is a normal part of pregnancy and serves a purpose – your baby needs that room to grow, after all. In the same way that other aspects of your body take time to adjust post-delivery, your abdominal muscles do as well, so sometimes the best treatment is simply time.

BabyCenter's editorial team is committed to providing the most helpful and trustworthy pregnancy and parenting information in the world. When creating and updating content, we rely on credible sources: respected health organizations, professional groups of doctors and other experts, and published studies in peer-reviewed journals. We believe you should always know the source of the information you're seeing. Learn more about our editorial and medical review policies.

Mayo Clinic. Separation of the abdominal muscles during pregnancy. 2022. [Accessed February 2022]

National Institutes of Health. Diastasis Recti. 2019. [Accessed February 2022]

National Institutes of Health. Exercise in pregnancy. 2015. [Accessed February 2022]

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