Diastasis recti is a normal condition most commonly associated with pregnancy. It is a natural, normal and necessary stretching of the abdominal muscles to make room for a baby to grow.
In the abdomen, we have a left and right rectus abdominus muscle. The connective tissue in between these muscles is called the “linea alba” (Latin for “white line”). It is made up primarily of collagen, which gives it the white coloring. The linea alba helps provide stability and load transfer between each side of the abdomen.
During pregnancy, the linea alba will stretch, and sometimes even tear, to accommodate the growing baby. This condition is referred to as “diastasis recti abdominus.” “Diastasis” means separation or spreading apart. The “recti abdominus” are the superficial abdominal muscles.
Diastasis recti is caused by increased intra-abdominal pressure during pregnancy. This is not just from growing a baby, but also from bad posture, chronic bloating, and poor loading technique (bearing down or sucking in) during daily tasks or exercises.
How Common is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis recti is more than just “common,” it is a universal condition when delivering a baby! 100% of women on their due date have least some abdominal separation. After giving birth, the body begins to heal, but for many that healing can be slow or incomplete. Six weeks postpartum, 60% of women still have a lingering ab gap. A year postpartum, one in three women still have a clinically-diagnosable diastasis. That’s where pelvic health PT comes in!
Diastasis Recti Symptoms
Symptoms of diastasis recti include:
- Hip, back and abdominal pain
- Poor posture and belly “pooch”
- Urinary or fecal incontinence
Symptom severity can vary from occasional and mild to frequent and debilitating. Others may feel no symptoms at all, but an ab separation can still cause problems, even if it’s not initially painful.
The good news is that diastasis recti is usually treatable with a simple exercise program designed and monitored by a physical therapist.
In some severe cases, surgery may be necessary to correct diastasis, but there are several drawbacks, including time, cost and post-operative pain. Also, surgery is not an option for women who plan to continue having kids (since the next pregnancy is almost guaranteed to undo any correction surgery makes). Most surgeons recommend women exhaust less invasive options (like physical therapy) before having surgery to correct diastasis.
When to Get Help
All women who are pregnant or have given birth should seek help to “restore the core.” There is no reason to accept that “mom bodies” need to be weak, fragile or plagued with pain.
Seeing a physical therapist is especially critical if you have prolapse, a hernia or have had any sort of abdominal surgery. (such as a C-section, hysterectomy or an appendectomy).
Let us “Restore Your Core”
The best time to prevent serious symptoms of diastasis is during pregnancy! But whether you’ve given birth six weeks ago or six years ago (or more!), it’s never too late to “restore your core.” We’ve seen great results in women even decades after having their kids.
Why should you come see us while you’re pregnant? While you cannot prevent developing diastasis during pregnancy, but you can prevent it from becoming especially severe and help speed your recovery postpartum.
Physical therapy for diastasis recti is covered by most insurance plans, and taking advantage of that benefit can save you time and trouble down the road. Have any questions? Let us know in the form below!