Diastasis Recti

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Most of us confuse when we see a woman who has a lot of fat near the belly and it looks as if she is still pregnant. In fact, in some cases, the makeup of the muscles can give an impression of pregnancy. Diastasis recti is the term for the state of having hardened diverging muscles near the abdomen that make it look like a pregnant belly.

The separation of recti muscles creates a gap between the set of 6 abs. Untreated pregnancy expansion of the abdominal muscles, is major cause of diastasis recti. During the third trimester every woman has this expanding of the collagen and connective tissues. Later on during the postpartum recovery phase, these heal.

Diastasis Recti
Diastasis Recti

What is diastasis recti?

Diastasis recti is the stretching apart of the pair of abdominal muscles that run parallel. It is natural for the muscles to stretch during the last trimester for accommodation purposes as the uterus expands. If this extension of the muscles doesn’t come back to natural state after the delivery, then the condition is called diastasis recti.

In general terms you can take it is a hardened baby pooch structure. After pregnancy, when you sleep for long your stomach bulges upon getting up, it is due to diastasis recti.

Diastasis recti, itself is a symptom of abnormal intra abdominal pressure. It is the same cause as that of prolapse or hernia.

Causes of diastasis recti

Linea Alba is the connective tissue that holds the three sets of abdominal muscles. The Linea Alba holds transverse abdominis which is deepest, obliques in between, and rectus abdominis. When there is irreversible stretching of this connective tissues due to lack of treatment, the entire musculature looses flexibility. The muscles no longer hold to opposite ends and don’t return to normal state.

The once agile muscles now become rigid and flaccid at different spots, leading to disruption of functions. Not only is the problem internal but it also affects the overall look of the abdomen externally reducing the physical appeal of the region.

It is important to note that pregnancy doesn’t cause diastasis. The excessive unmanaged intra abdominal pressure is responsible for it. During pregnancy the muscles stretch and the middle connecting tissue takes the entire load on itself. The pregnancy hormones soften the tissues and thus your shoe size increases by same mechanism.

Another reason for this is release of hormones, for the loosening of pelvic girdle tissue. Later on if the pregnancy shifts towards the floor or there is external force that shifts the alignment, it leads to unstable tension.

Long term coughing condition of any such stress can increase the gap of diastasis. The abdominal muscles have a single taut structure that holds the entire structure from the breast region to the pubic extremity. When it loses its strength, the 4 layered set of muscles become unstable.

How does diastasis recti look? How to diagnose diastasis recti?

The baby pooch or dome that makes you look pregnant even months later after childbirth is diastasis recti. Studies show that most women continue to have diastasis for six months after pregnancy.

This is like a small bag hanging from your belly where the baby bump was present. You can easily see the unusual muscle structure that causes an external change too. Along with external hardening you’ll feel the loss of strength from the core of muscles.

The weird abdominal musculature which doesn’t seem to reduce after baby delivery is not normal. Some women may feel that their stomach is bulging and hanging out in extreme cases of the condition.

Simple exercises and stretches can resolve it, if adopted within time. However, it is important that the focus is on the entire region. Simply trying to reduce the gap won’t help as the 4 layers of muscles from top to bottom function together.

Can you self diagnose diastasis recti?

Yes you can diagnose diastasis recti at home in three easy steps:

  1. Lie down flat and relax all your muscles. Now place you fingers one finger above your belly button. Slowly raise your neck and head region. Do not let your shoulder region rise up. If you feel a gap there, then you are having diastasis recti. Not only will you feel a gap but the tension felt in the region will be much less than or more than normal. This is because the muscles have no attachment point.
  2. Now repeat the same steps putting your fingers directly above the belly button. The diastasis recti gap is of few fingers width and measured based on it. When you place your fingers press the region slightly, as you’ve some fat present that can cause confusion.
  3. The same set of steps when done placing the fingers below the belly button, complete the test for diastasis recti.

If you have a gap of two fingers then you are suffering from diastasis recti. Medically a gap of 2.7 cm is diastasis recti. You may need to use abdominal splints and belts along with special precautions. Five to four finger gap is severe and doctor’s appointment is a must.

Risks of diastasis recti

If a woman has this diversification of the recti at the 8th week prematurely then it can stay as it is for an entire year. However, treatment can resolve the problem. More than half of the women left untreated after recti diversification, experience the problem for a year after delivery. Eventually the consequences of diastasis recti, such as Pelvic floor dysfunction occur in a large fraction of patients.

Later on it can cause complications like:

  1. Pain during sex
  2. Abdominal cramps and constipation
  3. Urine incontinence
  4. Back pain
  5. Risk of c section in future pregnancies
  6. Pain during coughing
  7. Hernia, organs pop out of the gap

Can diastasis recti cause c section?

For women who don’t want further pregnancies, the treatments of diastasis recti include surgery. This surgery involves the stitching of the muscles to midline. But in case a woman wants to have subsequent pregnancies then she cannot opt for this surgery. During pregnancy it is natural for the abdominal muscles to expand and stitching surgery will compromise on this.

Even if a woman doesn’t undergo any such surgery, prolonged diastasis recti makes the muscles limp. During parturition, the baby delivering act, requires rapid uterine contractions. This is attainable by the support of external muscles and so diastasis recti reduces the strength of core muscles.

Once you get into active labor, there is no way to pause. Reducing the flexibility of muscles, diastasis recti increases the risk of getting a c section. Further upon getting a surgery healing the muscle alignment mistake gets uncertain.

You can practice some exercises before getting pregnant that strengthen the core of the abdomen. You can continue with most gentle exercises until the first trimester. Later on, even if you practice exercises like running while pregnant, belly stretching is inevitable.

How to correct diastasis recti?

Belts or belly binders or abdominal supports cannot help correct diastasis recti. This is because the cause of diversification of the muscles is internal. Simply holding the pieces together won’t join them. You need to regain your lost muscle strength and flexibility. It is only possible when you work on the entire set of muscles.

Select the most appropriate exercises depending upon how active lifestyle you’ve had. Sudden workout routines can lead to worsening of the symptoms. Never ever do the exercise without proper guidance and knowledge.

The wrong method of exercise for diastasis recti can lead to permanent loss of muscle strength.

What exercises can correct diastasis recti?

The first step towards correcting diastasis recti is to provide locate and connect with you abdominal muscle. Take in a deep breath and gently exhale. Don’t pull or strain your stomach or ribs but gradually let your belly button move towards the direction of spine. The point where you feel limp, but it is the one moving inside is the gap.

Now connect and consciously align the muscles above and below it. Even if it sounds like a hypnotherapy, you’ll know that it is very practical.

One can do every exercise without aligning these muscles and leaving them taut. When you are able to connect to these muscles, then you must consciously use them.

Even during normal activities like getting down the bed, or standing up after sitting for long, use these muscles.

Pilate workout can help increase the pace of healing. Your doctor will check whether you are making progress through ultrasound.

Exercises or movements to avoid during diastasis recti

Any exercise that puts lateral strain on the abdominal muscles is not advisable during this state. Cross over, twisting, sit ups or push-ups lead to excessive stress on the muscles that are already loose. If you do a lot of sit ups during postpartum weight loss, then you can develop a cone like dome. Hence, it is important that you begin your postpartum weight loss under expert guidance and go gradually.

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