Rectus Diastasis: A Hazard of Pregnancy

About two-thirds of pregnant women develop rectus diastasis, a separation of the abdominal muscles. Also called diastasis recti, this common condition is the result of increased pressure on your abdominal wall during pregnancy.

The abdominal muscles, called the rectus abdominis, are six vertical muscles that connect down the center of your stomach. When you’re pregnant, your uterus expands to hold your growing baby and it puts extra strain on the rectus abdominis.

The strain can cause these muscles to separate, creating a bulge or pooch in your stomach that doesn't go away even after your baby is born. Rectus diastasis may heal on its own, but more severe cases can require surgery.

Brian Prebil, DO, Eric Thomas, MD, FACS, and our team at the Center for Minimally Invasive and Robotic Surgery specialize in minimally invasive rectus diastasis surgery. Trust our team if you’re considering surgery for this common hazard of pregnancy.

Recognizing rectus diastasis

Your abdominal muscles support your torso and lower back. Pregnancy causes your abdomen to stretch and the muscles often separate, creating a bulge that’s visible during pregnancy and after delivery.

Pregnancy isn’t the only cause of rectus diastasis, but it is one of the most common. Sometimes, newborn babies have the condition. In other cases, lifting weights incorrectly or performing unsafe abdominal exercises can trigger it. 

Rectus diastasis generally isn’t detectable in early pregnancy because it develops as your pregnancy progresses. Symptoms often include:

The rectus diastasis bulge might be more noticeable when you’re straining or using your ab muscles to stand up or sit down. It can appear above or below your belly button, and it often looks like a ridge.

If you’re concerned that you might have rectus diastasis after giving birth, talk to your doctor. They can perform tests or recommend a simple self-test to diagnose rectus diastasis and determine its severity.

Treating rectus diastasis

Rectus diastasis sounds serious — and it can contribute to significant symptoms, from muscle weakness to lower back pain — but the good news is that it's treatable.

Conservative treatment for rectus diastasis

Most of the time, rectus diastasis heals on its own within a few months after your baby is born. Your doctor will give you instructions to speed healing, which may include wearing a supportive binder or belly band to help your abdominal muscles go back into place.

Physical therapy may be a good option for some women because it strengthens surrounding muscles without causing more damage to separated abdominals. Pay attention to your body when you lift things (including your baby), and use your legs or deep stomach muscles instead of your surface ab muscles.

Avoid strenuous activities that could make rectus diastasis worse. Don’t do crunches, sit-ups, or other exercises that strain the ab muscles. Talk to your doctor about when you can resume exercising as healing times vary depending on whether you had a vaginal or Cesarean delivery and your general health.

Minimally invasive surgery for rectus diastasis

Severe abdominal separation may not be treatable with conservative methods. If you’re suffering consistent lower back pain and rectus diastasis interferes with your ability to participate in normal daily activities, you could benefit from minimally invasive rectus diastasis surgery.

At the Center for Minimally Invasive and Robotic Surgery, Dr. Prebil and Dr. Thomas specialize in minimally invasive technologies to repair rectus diastasis caused by pregnancy and other issues. We make very small incisions around your abdominal muscles to repair the separation. 

Minimally invasive surgery offers lower risks than traditional open surgery, along with faster recovery times and less noticeable scars.

Rectus diastasis very commonly occurs with pregnancy, but it’s treatable. If you find that conservative options aren’t enough or you’re still unsatisfied with your belly’s appearance, talk to our team about minimally invasive surgery. Call our office in Peoria, Arizona, or send us a message online today.

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