Diastasis Recti – A Common Finding in Postnatal

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Heard of Diastasis Recti but not sure what it is? In this article, one of our internationally qualified physiotherapists, Candice will share with you on this common condition that sometimes occurs as a result of pregnancy.

What is it?

Diastasis Recti (also known as Rectus Diastasis) is a separation of the rectus abdominus muscle, or often known as the ‘six-pack’ muscle. During pregnancy, the belly expands to accommodate the growing baby, which causes stretching of your connective tissues. Sometimes, the rectus abdominis muscle can stretch so much that it pulls apart in the middle. It occurs most often in the second and third trimester and can persist after birth. For some women, it closes naturally on its own slowly after birth but for others, a mild to severe gap can linger unnoticed. Symptoms such as low back pain, hip pain, and urinary incontinence can also be associated with this condition.

 

What does it look like?

You may notice a bulge or doming in the mid-belly region, especially when you transition from lying to sitting. A simple test that you can do is to lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Place your index and middle fingers at the belly button and lift your head up. Do the same test while placing the fingers a few centimeters above and below the button. If you notice there is a gap of about two finger widths or more at any of those areas, then you likely may have diastasis recti. However, if you are still very early post-partum, this can be a normal finding. A trained health care professional such as a physiotherapist can also help you test for this and gather a more detailed assessment of the diastasis recti gap as well as your overall posture and strength, especially in the pelvic girdle region.

 

How can I treat it?

Try to avoid exercises that place excessive intra-abdominal pressure on the front abdominal wall. Avoid doing your traditional sit-ups, crunches, and planks as well as challenging exercises such as double leg lifts, which can also cause too much strain for the abdominals. Start by focusing on simple exercises that engage the deepest core muscles such as your pelvic floor and the innermost abdominal muscle called your transverse abdominis. Your physiotherapist can provide you with treatment in recruiting these muscles properly and guiding you through specific exercises that are aimed at closing the diastasis recti gap. They will also be able to provide feedback on how to improve your breathing pattern and posture and recommend safe ways for performing your daily activities such as lifting the baby and getting in and out of bed. With large gaps of about four finger widths, an abdominal binder that is fitted properly is recommended to help with approximating the two sides of the abdominal wall.

 

-Candice Kwok, Physiotherapist

 

 

 

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