If you’re pregnant, a common condition you could face is the separation of your large abdominal muscles. Known as diastasis recti, this condition typically affects women over 35, those giving birth to multiple babies, or those who deliver a high birth-weight baby.
A hallmark of diastasis recti is a bulge in your belly. Women in the Lake Mary, Florida, area struggling with diastasis recti or other abdominal conditions related to pregnancy can find help at the offices of OB/GYN Christopher Quinsey, MD, and our experienced medical team.
Understanding the anatomy
When it comes to vital parts of your anatomy, it’s easy to think of the heart and lungs, which are protected by your ribcage and vital to living.
But just below it is your abdomen, which houses a wide variety of organs important for your well-being, including most of your digestive system, the pancreas, liver, gallbladder, and kidneys.
This section of your body is supported and protected by a series of abdominal muscles that perform many functions, such as maintaining internal pressure, supporting posture, and helping with essential body functions.
Your abdominal muscles are also very important during pregnancy. Diastasis recti affect this area and create numerous problems. Fortunately, there are prevention and treatment options, so let’s explore this problem by looking at what diastasis recti is, how it affects your body, and what you can do to avoid it.
Understanding diastasis recti
This condition is also known as diastasis rectus abdominis (DRA), and it’s the term for the separation of abdominal muscles, specifically the rectus abdominis (or the six-pack abs).
During pregnancy, your uterus expands and stretches both the abdominal muscles and the linea alba (the white fibrous tissue that sits between the abdominal muscles on both sides). Once you have your baby, the muscles and tissue normally heal and return to their normal shape.
When they remain overstretched, the gap that forms in the linea alba remains, resulting in diastasis recti.
This condition mainly affects pregnant and postpartum women at a rate of at least 65%, and while it can resolve itself over time, it may persist if left untreated.
What it does to your body
You may notice a bulge or pooch in your belly, possibly with a softness or jellylike sensation around your navel. Even after you start an exercise regimen, the bulge won’t go away.
While the condition itself is not generally painful, it can cause discomfort with several symptoms, including:
- Painful sex
- Pelvic or hip pain
- Low back pain
- Poor posture
- Abdominal weakness
- Difficulty lifting, walking, or other basic functions
It can also lead to a variety of complications, such as decreased stability and mobility, pelvic floor dysfunction, and in extreme cases, hernia.
Core exercises are key to avoiding diastasis recti. Here are a few we recommend:
For this exercise, get on all fours (hands and knees) and gently exhale while rounding your spine up toward the ceiling and tucking your chin toward your chest.
Seated pelvic tilts
From the seated position, inhale, keeping your spine straight, then exhale while tucking in your pelvis toward your navel.
This is another exercise starting on all fours. Raise your right arm and left leg, keeping your hips and shoulders parallel to the floor, then switch sides.
Modified side plank
Using your right forearm and the right knee to prop yourself up, lift your hips to form a straight line, hold for a few seconds and then switch sides.
While pregnant, avoid ab crunches, situps, and any exercise that requires you to lie on your back. The first two can increase your risks of diastasis recti, and the latter can risk your child’s health.
If you’re concerned about diastasis recti, we can help. Make an appointment with Dr. Quinsey and our experienced team to get the best treatment options or learn how to avoid it in the future.