Explaining Diastasis Recti
After delivering your little one, have you noticed that even after losing the baby weight, your clothes still might not fit right? Maybe you notice a little bulge on your tummy that wasn’t there before you were pregnant? If so, then you may have diastasis recti. Although pregnancy can change your life in so many wonderful ways, there are some physical changes to your body that may be a bit different from what you were expecting. They can not only impact the way you feel about your body, but in some cases of diastasis recti, it can also cause unpleasant symptoms that can affect your physical well-being. Let’s talk a little more about what diastasis recti is and how you can make improvements to it so you can feel as good physically as possible while caring for your little one.
What is diastasis recti?
Diastasis recti abdominis (DRA) is a condition that involves the separation of the two muscle bellies of the rectus abdominis muscle. When this happens, the midline abdominal area can bulge. This separation can happen when the tendon that runs down the middle of your abdomen, also called the linea alba, thins and widens. This thinning, along with weakening of the abdominal muscles, can lead to the bulging.
DRA is usually seen in women during pregnancy, but is only seen in about four of ten women at six months postpartum. There are not any definite causes of this condition, but there are a few risk factors. Some risk factors of DRA include:
- Older age
- Giving birth to multiple children
- Caesarean section
- Low collagen I and III levels in the midline of the abdominal wall
- Weight gain
- High birth weight of the baby
- Having a multiple pregnancy such as twins or triplets
Risk factors like excess weight as well as improper breathing can also cause what is called intra abdominal pressure (IAP). This extra pressure in the abdomen can contribute to the separation of the muscle bellies. IAP may lead to health issues such as respiratory and heart health issues if the abdominal bulging is pushing upwards against your diaphragm. The diaphragm separates the abdominal cavity from the cavity holding your heart and lungs. The extra intra abdominal pressure can in turn restrict breathing.
Also, some people with DRA may have symptoms similar to those with hernias such as lower back pain, weakness or pressure in the abdomen, or discomfort when bending, lifting, or coughing. Not all cases of DRA may have other symptoms outside of abdominal bulging. If you do have other symptoms, it will be important to follow up with a qualified healthcare provider.
How long does it take for DRA to go away?
Although DRA goes away in many women during the first year after giving birth, about one-third of women still have it after this time. Some studies found that those with mild or no DRA had engaged in regular exercise about three times a week during pregnancy. Certain exercises may help reduce the distance between the two muscle bellies, but further studies are needed to confirm their effectiveness. In fact, one study found that physiotherapy such as strengthening exercises for the abs, hip, and trunk, were found to produce mild improvements in bringing the muscle bellies closer together with muscle contraction.
In some cases where the DRA may be more severe, or cosmetic or functional impairments may be greater, then surgery may be required. Such surgical treatment would help to realign the abdominal muscles.
How can I start improving my DRA?
To help improve your DRA, exercise and healthy eating regimens should become a part of your daily routine. These practices will help you to reduce excess weight and strengthen your abdominal muscles that will help not only improve DRA, but help reduce IAP. But although healthy lifestyle changes may help improve DRA, once your little one is born, you’ve got your hands full. Therefore, the last thing you have time for is creating yourself a meal and fitness plan. So, if this sounds a bit too complicated, and you feel a bit lost on what to do, then that’s why the Mother Strong League is here to help you stay on course with a healthy lifestyle so you can focus more of your time on caring for your new arrival.
If you just had a baby and would like an easy to follow guide on exercises that are safe for this postnatal stage, make sure to download my FREE ‘’Postnatal Core Cheat Sheet’’. Click HERE to get yours
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