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Diastasis recti: What to know about this common postpartum condition

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Diastasis recti: What to know about this common postpartum condition

Slide 1 of 21: Giving birth takes a tremendous toll on your body. While there are countless horror stories out there, it’s important to know the facts. One of the most common conditions women experience after labour is diastasis recti. It is when the abdominal or ‘six-pack’ muscles become separated—either partially or fully. In this guide, we will take a look at what you need to know about this medical problem, its signs, and how it is treated.

What is diastasis recti?

Diastasis recti is the partial or complete separation of the rectus abdominis, or “six-pack” muscles, which meet at the midline of your stomach. Diastasis recti is very common during and following pregnancy. This is because the uterus stretches the muscles in the abdomen to accommodate your growing baby. One study found that up to 60 percentTrusted Source of women may experience diastasis recti during pregnancy or postpartum.

The condition isn’t limited to pregnancy, though. It can affect anyone, including newborn babies and men. In some cases, it can result from lifting heavy weights incorrectly or performing excessive or unsafe abdominal exercises. 

What are the symptoms ?

The most common symptom of diastasis recti is a pooch or bulge in your stomach, especially when you strain or contract your abdominal muscles. Additional symptoms include:

  • lower back pain
  • poor posture
  • constipation
  • bloating


During pregnancy, you might not have any noticeable symptoms as your abdominal muscles separate. But during the second or third trimester, you might see a bulge or ridge developing on your belly. It can appear above and below the bellybutton. It might be most noticeable when you’re trying to use your ab muscles to stand, sit up, or lie down.

If you experience any extreme abdominal, back, or pelvic pain, see your doctor right away.


After delivery, the most noticeable symptom is a bulge or “pooch” in your belly area. Even though you’re no longer pregnant, it might look like you still are.

Here’s how to self-check yourself for diastasis recti after childbirth:

  1. Lie on your back, legs bent, feet flat on the floor.
  2. Raise your shoulders up off the floor slightly, supporting your head with one hand, and look down at your belly.
  3. Move your other hand above and below your bellybutton, and all along your midline ab muscles. See if you can fit any fingers in the gaps between your muscles.
  4. If you feel a gap, or separation of one to two finger lengths, you likely have a moderate case of diastasis recti. After a few weeks postpartum, the gap will start to narrow as your muscles regain strength.

Your doctor or physical therapist can also check for diastasis recti using a measuring tool called a caliper or an ultrasound. These will give them a more accurate measurement. Your doctor or physical therapist should also evaluate any gap greater than two finger lengths.


 What are the causes?

Excessive inner-abdominal pressure causes diastasis recti. During pregnancy, your abdominal muscles and connective tissues are stretched out from your expanding uterus. They’re helped along by the pregnancy hormones relaxin and estrogen. Pushing during delivery can also lead to diastasis recti. Experiencing some abdominal separation during and following pregnancy is expected.

In the past, body mass index (BMI), weight gain during pregnancy, weight of the baby, and maternal age were considered risk factors. But a 2015 studyTrusted Source found no connection between these factors and pregnant women being more or less likely to experience the condition.

Newborn babies are sometimes born with diastasis recti, especially if they’re premature. That’s because their abdominal muscles aren’t fully developed and connected. The condition usually corrects itself with time.

Reference: Expresso Communications: Charlotte Grainger

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