A lot of women notice core weakness or even a small “bulge” in their abdomen after giving birth.

It can be a scary and confusing feeling to see how much our bodies change after giving birth!

Many women develop a diastasis recti during pregnancy, and by the end of this blog post, you’ll learn what exactly that is and how to treat it.

It is estimated that two-thirds of women experience this after delivery, and many women don’t even know it exists or have been taught about it!

During pregnancy, many hormones are released in our body which allows our ligaments to stretch and lengthen. This is done to allow our pelvis to open to make room for the baby’s head during delivery.

Unfortunately, these hormones also allow many other ligaments in our body to stretch. The connective tissue between our abdominal can become stretched during pregnancy- both from these hormones and from being lengthened from the growing baby!

When this connective tissue becomes overstretched, it ultimately fails and leaves us with a separation of our abdominal. Like a rubber band that has been stretched too far and can’t go back to it’s original length.

Sometimes, this connective tissue can shrink back on its own after birth, but studies have shown that more than half of women continue to have a diastasis one year following delivery.

Diastasis Recti

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Diastasis recti risk factors include having multiple births, carrying twins or triplets, having a petite frame prior to getting pregnant, and being pregnant at an age over 35.

Diastasis Recti could be treated with surgery to repair the abdominal tissue and bring it back together. However, these surgeries could lead to complications with further pregnancies, and also opens the risk for infection and scar tissue on the abdomen. Also, this surgery is commonly considered a “tummy tuck” and is rarely covered by insurances.

Some women choose to wear an abdominal binder, however, the effects of an abdominal binder are temporary and reverse immediately after the brace is removed. Wearing an abdominal binder or brace can also lead to compensations and cause low back or hip pain.

Physical therapy can help to treat a diastasis recti by carefully approximating the abdominal muscles and gradually strengthening the core. It’s that simple! Over time, the new strength in our core helps to close the separation.

Not only that, but it helps to prevent it from happening again in the future!

Physical therapy can also help to strengthen the core before or during pregnancy, to help prevent a diastasis recti from occurring in the first place.

Due to the sensitive nature of a diastasis recti, inappropriate core strengthening can make the condition worse! All abdominal exercises for a diastasis should be guided by a trained professional.

Without being properly treated, a diastasis recti can lead to back pain, constipation, urinary incontinence, or a worsening of the diastasis with future pregnancies.

If the diastasis recti gets worse, it can lead to an abdominal hernia, which would need to be repaired with surgery to avoid damage to our internal organs.

Not sure if you have a diastasis recti? Try this quick test at home!

Lie on your back with your knees bent up. Place your hand right above your belly button with your fingers pointing towards your toes. Push in towards your back, gently, and then start to do a sit-up.

If you feel a caving in or a bulging out beneath your fingers, it may be a separation of your abdominal tissue. Physical therapists typically consider greater than 2-fingers width to be significant, but, any separation should be addressed!

Think you may benefit from treatment for a diastasis recti, or just have questions about physical therapy treatment? Click the button below to get in touch with our physical therapy team and book your FREE discovery visit today!

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About Author: Dr. Jenna Stasi

Dr. Jenna Stasi is currently pursuing her Women’s Health Clinical Specialist Certification, to better treat women and men suffering from pelvic floor dysfunction. In her time away from the clinic, she enjoys running, backpacking, and baking. For more information on how to ease or overcome your injury, go to www.backinmotionsspt.com.

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