Written By Taylor Haskings / Reviewed By Ray Spotts
The abdomen is unique because two strips of muscle (rectus abdominis) are usually joined together by a band of connective tissue called the linea alba. Some conditions cause the linea alba to become lax, and therefore the six-pack muscles are wholly or partially separated.
Whereas diastasis recti is a common complication of pregnancy, the condition can also affect men and babies. Knowing the risk factors for diastasis recti and testing for it is essential for healthy living.
During pregnancy, the growing uterus usually necessitates the separation of the abdominal muscles to accommodate the growing fetus. The former is why approximately 60 percent of women experience some degree of postpartum diastasis recti.
Unsafe abdominal workouts or lifting heavy equipment incorrectly may also lead to diastasis recti. In newborns, diastasis recti are due to congenital muscular malformations leading to muscular anomalies.
Diastasis Recti and Pregnancy
Pregnancy is associated with many hormonal and bodily changes that try to accommodate a growing fetus. Hormones such as relaxin, estrogens, and progesterone cause the relaxation of abdominal connective tissues. Additionally, the increased abdominal pressure may precipitate diastasis recti.
Other risk factors for diastasis recti include:
- Getting pregnant at an advanced age (women older than 35)
- Having a large baby
- Having multiple pregnancies
- A second, third or more pregnancies
Signs of Diastasis Recti
Having a Mommy Pooch
Due to the separation on the rectus abdominis, diastasis recti will cause distention of the abdomen long after pregnancy. The abdomen gets a dome or cone shape long after giving birth. Even after shedding off that baby fat, a persistent “mommy tummy” is a sure way of knowing something is wrong.
Feeling a Gap Between the Abs
Due to the weakened connective tissue separating the two strips of the rectus abdominis, most women will feel and see a sunken crevice between the abs. The crevice might be more prominent while lying down on the back.
Feeling a Weight on the Pelvic Floor
The abdominal muscles are crucial in keeping the abdominal organs in place. Some women experience heaviness or vaginal aches during diastasis recti, making it difficult or near impossible to stand for long or take long walks.
Pelvic floor problems occur because the linea alba and the pelvic floor work together to hold organs in place. When the balance between the floor and muscles is affected, then the whole system becomes faulty.
Having Urine Incontinence
Most women with diastasis recti will often complain that they pee a little when they laugh too hard or sneeze. Severe diastasis recti may cause a leak and complete incontinence, making it challenging to hold in any pee. Though rare, diastasis recti may also cause fecal incontinence.
Having Lower Back Pain
While numerous factors will cause lower back pain, postpartum back pain may indicate diastasis recti. Exercises to strengthen the core may relieve back pain due to diastasis recti.
The back pain is often due to shifts in posture due to a lax abdominal wall. Sometimes, organ shifts due to diastasis recti may also lead to painful sex.
Testing For Diastasis Recti
A diastasis recti test is easy to do at home and can be done even when alone. The rectus abdominis can separate into three separate areas, all in the context of the navel (belly button). The separation can be above, below, or around the belly button.
To self-examine for diastasis recti:
- Lie supine on a flat surface with the knees flexed
- Use the fingers to press down around the belly button going towards the pelvis
- Gently lift the head up for about an inch while keeping the shoulders firmly on the flat surface
- A person with diastasis recti will feel a gap between the abdominal muscles that is approximately an inch wide
A lady with excess belly fat may require to press down around the belly button a bit more firmly to feel a gap.
Once a woman notices that they have diastasis recti, avoiding conditions and exercises that may worsen the diastasis recti is encouraged. The conditions include:
- Any strenuous exercises that cause a bulging of abdominal muscles
- Carrying heavy loads
- Coughing without supporting the abdominal muscles
Testing for diastasis recti is easy and can be done in the comfort of the home. All women should not get stigma from diastasis recti but should instead be empowered to correct the condition.
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Taylor Haskings is a freelance writer born in Denver, Colorado. She graduated with a bachelor's in English from the University of Colorado, Denver. She enjoys hiking in the Colorado Rockies and loves the fine arts, such as playing the violin. Her true strengths include networking with others, and expressing herself through the written word.
Founder Ray Spotts has a passion for all things natural and has made a life study of nature as it relates to health and well-being. Ray became a forerunner bringing products to market that are extraordinarily effective and free from potentially harmful chemicals and additives. For this reason Ray formed Trusted Health Products, a company you can trust for clean, effective, and healthy products. Ray is an organic gardener, likes fishing, hiking, and teaching and mentoring people to start new businesses. You can get his book for free, “How To Succeed In Business Based On God’s Word,” at www.rayspotts.com.