Diastasis Recti: What is Mummy Tummy all about?

Congratulations on your newborn baby! There is something wonderful about welcoming a new life into the world. Now that you’ve successfully given birth to your baby, it is time for your body to recover from the pregnancy and delivery journey. Post delivery recovery usually takes 6 – 8 weeks, but there could be postnatal problems like diastasis recti that arise which may require more work to resolve. 

Childbirth can be extremely taxing on the body – researchers have found that the physical demands of childbirth is as tiring as running a full marathon or an athlete who takes part intense physical sports. The difference between athletes and mothers is that athletes train for months before their race in order to condition and prepare their body for the race. Most expecting mothers on the other hand are unable to be physically prepared for the changes that the pregnancy journey has on their body.

As such, mothers tend to experience a variety of postnatal injuries such as pelvic weakness, muscle strains and injuries. During the pregnancy journey, the body goes through severe changes to accommodate the growing foetus. Muscles are stretched for a prolonged period of 9 months, weakening them. Skeletal structures are shifted in order to support the growing belly. Coupled with the physical intensity of the birthing experience, it is no surprise that new mothers require 6 weeks to 8 weeks to recuperate from the physical impact. Even so, there are some postnatal injuries that do not heal on their own and require extra work to fix it. One of such injuries is Diastasis Recti, commonly known as Mummy Tummy.

What is Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis Recti is a common postnatal occurrence. Diastasis originates from the greek word, meaning separation, and Recti refers to the rectus abdominus muscle. Put together, it refers to the separation of the left half and right half of abdominal muscles at the midline. Rectus abdominus muscles, also commonly knows as abs, are made up of a pair of long muscles (left and right) at the front of your abdomen. They are responsible for the appearance of six-pack abs. Connective tissues separate the left and right muscles vertically down the belly and segment each muscle to form the six-pack abs.

During pregnancy, the growing foetus pushes against your abdominal wall in order to create space in the uterus. This in turn causes there to be inner abdominal pressure pushing out against your abdominal muscles. As such, your mid line connective tissues holding the left and right rectus abdominus muscles together are forced to stretch to accommodate this widening growth. After giving birth, the connective tissue remains stretched, leaving your left and right abdominal muscles separated. The stretched out connective tissue causes the tummy to protrude and result in a little bulge. 

diastasis recti

What causes my abdominal muscles to separate? 

Abdominal muscle separation is expected in most pregnancies and in most cases, the separation is likely to resolve itself. However, Diastasis Recti occurs when the abdominal muscles stay separated even after a long period of time. 

Diastasis Recti occurs in 30% of new mums and is more likely to occur among women who have had more than one child or heavier babies/twins. This is simply due to the fact that a bigger belly causes the connective tissues between your abdominal muscles to stretch out further. The further your connective tissues are stretched, the weaker it gets. This makes it harder for them to heal.

The impact of Diastasis Recti

In most cases, diastasis recti does not have any serious implications on your physical health. Common complaints would be cosmetically related because of the tummy bulge which resembles a pregnant tummy and can prevent mummies from feeling good about their body. 

In rare severe cases, diastasis recti can cause back pain, constipation and problems breathing. This occurs because of the weakened support in your abdomen for your back and vital organs such as 

How can I tell if I have Diastasis Recti?

Some abdominal separation during pregnancy and after childbirth is expected and should go away in 6-8 weeks. However, if your mummy tummy is persistent and hasn’t gone away over time, here are some ways to find out if you are suffering from diastasis recti.

There are some tell tale factors that can indicate that you have Diastasic Recti:

  • You have given birth previously – your likelihood of getting Diastasis Recti increases if you have had more than one child or have given birth to twins before.
  • You have a bulging tummy that doesn’t seem to go away even months after giving birth to your baby. 
  • There is a gap of more than 2 fingers width in the centre of your abdomen muscles even when you contract your core muscles 
  • You can also conduct a simple self test at home to determine if you have diastasis recti. First, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Come up into a crunch and contract your abdominal muscles. With one hand, use your fingers to feel for the left and right abdominal muscles around the height of your belly button. Test for separation at that area and determine the width of separation (if any). It is also important to note that if you have recently just given birth (less than 6 weeks), abdominal separation is normal and should go away in time. 

What can I do about Diastasis Recti?

Now that we have learnt more about diastasis recti, the next step would be to explore available treatment methods to resolve the weakened gap. In this next article, we dive deeper into the treatment methods available to resolve Diastasis Recti. 

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