diastasis recti, diastasis recti exercises, abdominal separation

What is diastasis recti and how can I treat it?

As your baby bump grows, you may notice that your abs appear to be separating down the middle. This condition is called diastasis recti, and it’s fairly common among women who are pregnant or postpartum. Here’s what you’ll read about this abdominal separation.

Diastasis recti rarely requires surgery. It isn’t a dangerous condition, but it can harm your quality of life if you don’t get it corrected after pregnancy.

What causes diastasis recti?

Your growing uterus puts pressure on your ab muscles – the rectus abdominis – from within. At the same time, pregnancy hormones relax the connective tissue that holds the muscles together from sternum to pelvis.

Having diastasis recti makes your abdomen feel soft and jelly-like, especially around your belly button. Sometimes, you can even feel or see the “gap” area where your abdominal muscles separated down the middle.

Diastasis recti itself isn’t painful. However, some of the side effects may cause pain or discomfort. You may also feel weakness in your core when trying to lift things.

How to check for diastasis recti

You might not be able to see any symptoms of diastasis recti early on in your pregnancy. But signs of diastasis may appear later during pregnancy or postpartum. A bulge or ridge down the middle of your stomach will give away that you have separated abdomen muscles.

“A lack of abdominal support from a diastasis recti abdominis (DRA) can impact the surrounding muscles,” said Holly Weidenhamer, a physical therapist at OSF HealthCare. “It can lead to other diastasis recti symptoms like urinary incontinence, constipation and pain in your lower back and pelvic area.”

Hip pain and shoulder pain can also be signs of abdominal separation.

How to fix diastasis recti

After delivery, the abdominal separation typically gets smaller over time. But it doesn’t always heal by itself.

So what are your options for diastasis recti treatment?

Most women can improve their condition with specific exercises for diastasis recti. Working with a physical therapist is recommended.
A physical therapist can help develop an exercise routine that works best for you. They can also help you learn proper form and monitor your progress.

Using an abdominal binder has also proved helpful for women dealing with diastasis recti postpartum.

Diastasis recti surgery is an option typically reserved for only the most severe cases. Basically, the surgery involves stitching up the connective tissue between your left and right abs.

Diastasis recti exercises

There are diastasis recti exercises you can do both during pregnancy and immediately following delivery.

They work your pelvic floor muscles, the band of muscles around your abdomen and the muscles in your lower back.

These exercises are done while lying on your back flat on the floor. They are designed to strengthen your entire trunk without overworking your abdominal muscles. If you overwork your abs, it could result in making the abdominal separation worse.

Last Updated: May 14, 2024

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About Author: Katie Faley

Katie Faley is a Writing Coordinator for OSF HealthCare. She graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in English Studies. Before joining OSF HealthCare in 2021, she worked in magazine editing, digital marketing and freelance writing.
Katie is often found listening to ‘60s folk music, deciding on a new skill to learn, losing track of time in a library or spending time with her family and friends.

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Categories: Birth & Maternity