If You Still Look Pregnant Long After You’ve Delivered, It Might Be Diastasis Recti

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Nov 28, 2018

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Do you still look pregnant after you’ve delivered? You may have what is generally known as Mummy Tummy, Mummy Pooch, of Baby Belly. Many people think it is an inevitable retention of pregnancy weight, but it’s not; it’s not even weight, or fat, at all. In medical terms, it is a pospartum complication called diastasis recti or divarication.

It is known to affect two-thirds of postpartum women who often believe it is normal and permanent, but the truth is, it can be managed and improved with the right exercises. Ignoring or accepting it can lead the condition to worsen and cause severe back pain, even hernia.

What is diastasis recti and how do I know if I have it?

During pregnancy, the abdominal muscles stretch apart to accommodate the growing fetus. However, after birth, if these muscles do not go back to their original position and close the gap, the organs behind the muscles bulge out, causing the belly to sag. This is diastasis recti.

It can be tested for, by a gynecologist, six to eight weeks after delivery. To know if you have a post-pregnancy tummy, a doctor will have you lie flat on your back with your knees bent. Then, they will place their fingers right above your belly button and gently press down on your stomach, while you lift your head an inch off the table, keeping your shoulders down. If they feel a gap wider than an inch in the muscles, you have the post-pregnancy pooch, that is, diastasis recti. However, bear in mind that the amount of separation will vary in different women, so only a doctor will be able to confirm this postpartum complication.

Why should I be worried about Baby Belly? 

The weakened core, or abdominal, muscles put a lot of strain on back muscles, causing them to be overused and overburdened, resulting in back pain. In complicated diastasis recti cases, the tissue connected to these abdominal muscles may tear and mothers may end up developing a hernia, i.e., their bowels could poke through the gap.

Is there anything I can do for diastasis recti?

First, Mummy Tummy can be prevented; even before you’ve delivered, if you exercise with the right pelvic floor exercises, you’ll likely never develop this condition. Swimming, simple breathing exercises and yoga can also help prevent a post-pregnancy belly.

For those who already have Mummy Tummy, don’t lose heart. If you approach the doctor within six to eight weeks of noticing a pooch after your delivery, chances are good that your abdominal muscles can be realigned with the help of a structured and supervised exercise program.

Many online articles talk about crossover crunches, or bicycle crunches, to strengthen abdominal muscles. But if you do those, what you are doing without even realizing it, is exacerbating the condition. These exercises, and many others, cause flaring of ribs or stretching out of abdominal connective tissues, making diastasis recti worse; they, as well as crunches or downward facing abdominal movements, should be avoided. It’s important that, initially, you do the right rehabilitative exercises under supervision, before gradually moving to doing them on your own.

What you can do, on your own, however, is concentrate on maintaining a good posture, post-delivery. Slouching puts more pressure on the back and may further the separation of the abdominal muscles. You may also want to consider wearing an abdominal support belt, post-delivery for six to eight weeks, to help draw the separated muscles towards each other and provide support to your core.

You can also, while you’re waiting the six to eight weeks before your gynecologist can check for diastasis recti, try this deep stomach exercise to minimize Mummy Tummy:

  • Lie on your side with your knees slightly bent.
  • Let your tummy relax and breathe in gently.
  • As you breathe out, gently draw in the lower part of your stomach like a corset, narrowing your waistline.
  • At the same time, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles.
  • Hold for a count of 10, breathing normally — then gently release.
  • Repeat up to 10 times.
  • Build up to 2-3 sets of 10, daily.

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Written By Vanshika Gupta Adukia

Vanshika Gupta Adukia is a Mumbai-based physiotherapist who specializes in antenatal, postnatal and pelvic floor care, a childbirth educator, and the founder of Therhappy. She holds a Bachelor of Physical Therapy degree from DY Patil University, Mumbai, and is a CAPPA Certified Lactation Educator. An avid reader, she is passionate about women’s health, little babies, all things colorful and happiness.
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