It’s no secret that women’s bodies go through a lot of changes during and after pregnancy. Some of these changes can be quite fun (strong nails and hair for the win) while others are a little trickier to embrace (hello postpartum breast deflation, stretch marks, and hair loss.) But there’s one aftereffect of pregnancy that’s not commonly discussed among moms and moms-to-be and that’s abdominal separation—otherwise known as diastasis recti.
This condition develops during pregnancy when the abdominal muscles stretch to accommodate the baby then don’t fully come back together after delivery. There are varying degrees of severity and many women don’t realize this abdominal separation has occurred until several months following their pregnancy.
Decoding diastasis recti can be challenging. In an effort to generate a greater awareness of this condition, we are sharing some helpful information on what it really is and how you may be able to treat it.
What Is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis recti is the separation of the right and left rectus abdominis muscles. Think of these muscles as panels of a corset which have to be let out to make room for the baby. After a mom gives birth, the corset can’t always tighten itself back up completely. The diastasis recti is the gap that remains. Some women can feel the space between the muscles when they are lying down. In fact, that’s how many moms discover its existence for the first time. This space is typically measured in finger widths and can be anywhere from one to four fingers wide; the greater the width, the more severe the condition.
From the outside, abdominal separation may appear as a rounded bulge in the midsection that resembles a pregnant belly. It may be the reason some women continue to look pregnant months (or years) after they give birth. If left untreated, it can lead to ab weakness, prolapse, back pain, and digestive issues. Anyone may experience diastasis recti, but it can be more common in women who have had multiple children, according to RealSelf.
The good news is that abdominal separation can be improved or even reversed in some cases. For starters, there are several corrective exercises and physical therapy treatments that can help strengthen the weakened connective tissue. For many women, regular practice of these gentle, targeted techniques can be enough to restore abdominal function. That being said, it’s important to note that certain traditional abdominal exercises, like crunches, can actually worsen the condition—so be sure to consult a physician before embarking upon an exercise regimen with diastasis recti.
In more severe cases where exercise and/or physical therapy is not improving the condition, surgery may be advised. When conducted with the goal of treating the effects of diastasis recti, an abdominoplasty (or “tummy tuck”), can tighten up the abdominis recti and reinforce these critical muscles. During this procedure, a surgeon sutures the muscles back together while removing excess skin and creating a flatter, slimmer, stronger abdomen. Recovery usually takes a few weeks and scars are placed low so they can be easily hidden by clothes.
The surgeons at the Center for Cosmetic Surgery frequently perform abdominoplasty procedures at their Denver practice. If a patient is looking to treat multiple postpartum conditions, the Center for Cosmetic Surgery in Denver also offers customized treatment plans geared towards moms that cover a range of personalized procedures with only one anesthesia and one downtime. This way, patients can strengthen their core, enhance their breasts, and suction out stubborn areas of fat all at once to help restore their pre-baby body.
If surgery is part of your long-term solution, choosing a qualified surgeon is essential. To ensure the procedure will be safe and lead to the best possible results, choose a doctor who is board-certified in plastic surgery. He or she should be open to answering any questions and concerns at your initial consultation.
Making Your Choice
Something worth noting: The most important thing to remember when it comes to your post-baby body is that it belongs to you. Having a child is a beautiful, life-changing achievement, and you should never feel pressured to make changes to the way you look for any reason other than your own health and happiness. Loving your body and doing what feels best for you is the most powerful choice you can make.
Don’t let mom-shamers or social media haters make you believe you have to go the plastic surgery route. In the same token, don’t let them shame you out of going the plastic surgery route. It’s important to make sure that any action you take—or don’t take—comes from a place of making yourself happy and healthy and not pleasing anyone else.