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More Than a Baby Bulge: Identifying and Treating Diastasis Recti

By Stephanie Penny, PT, DPT, OCS

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1“My abdomen is separated and my back hurts. I lost all the baby weight, why is my belly still bulging?”
                    Clair, new mom, age 29

Moms, has your body fully recovered from pregnancy?  Pregnancy puts so much pressure on the belly that sometimes the muscles in front can’t maintain their normal shape and integrity.  For two-thirds of pregnant women, this pressure results in diastasis recti.Diastasis means separation. Recti refers to the “rectus abdominus” muscle.  Therefore, diastasis recti means your abdominal contents bulge because the space between your left and right rectus abdominis muscle has widened. When this occurs, the uterus, bowels, and other organs have only a thin band of connective tissue holding them in place.The condition can contribute to lower back pain, constipation, and urine leaking. It can even make it harder to breathe and to move normally. While rare, in extreme cases the tissue may tear, and organs may protrude through the opening — that’s called a hernia and may need surgical repair.Diastasis recti is very common among pregnant women. Having more than one child makes this condition more likely, especially if they are close in age. You’re also more likely to experience diastasis recti if you are over 35 when pregnant, having a heavy baby or carry multiple babies.  Your physical therapist can assist you with re-education of the muscles of your abdominal wall and pelvic floor, which will minimize stress to the diastasis recti and allow it return to normal width.  Restoring the integrity of the abdominal wall can help you safely return to your fitness activities without further aggravating the problem, as well as help you keep up with the bending, lifting, bathing and car-seat carrying! Treatment for diastasis recti is commonly covered by your health insurance when recommended by a physician.Lakeshore Sports Physical Therapy, PC, also offers a Post-Natal Recovery program to help you return to your pre-pregnancy strength and shape.  The program includes assessment of posture, strength and flexibility, re-education of weak muscles and establishing a fitness program for you to continue independently or with one of our fitness instructors

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