WHAT IS DIASTASIS RECTI (Abdominal Separation)?
What is a Diastasis Recti?
When you are pregnant the tummy expands to accomodate the growing foetus. In 76% of women the rectus abdominis muscles (think 6 pack) split and move apart along the tummy line leaving a thin layer of connective tissue holding them together to take on the accompanying extra intra- adominal pressure during pregnancy and this is called the Diastasis Recti.
Once the baby is born the gap reduces but in approximately 30% of women the gap remains. Often doctors do not talk about this and often mothers have no idea that their symptoms such as described below can be for this reason. It is recommended to see a physiotherapist if a DRAM is suspected as if it is not corrected it can lead to a number of problems including:
- low back pain
- doming protruding belly – ‘mummy tummy’ or ‘paunch’
- leakage of the bladder
- weak pelvic floor muscles
- poor posture
The ‘Mummy Tummy’ or ‘Paunch’
When mums have this stubborn mummy tummy that remains after pregnancy they often just diet or think normal boot camps or other gym classes will get rid of it. In fact it is the opposite and the normal exercises such as plank and abdominal cramps will actually make it worse. The only way to get rid of this tummy is to do a specific programme of exercises taught by an experienced professional in treating Diastasis Recti.
Which Mothers Are More Susceptible?
Having a Diastasis Recti does happen more commonly in mothers who are over 35, have had multiple babies, twins, exercised with bad form and the overweight.
How Do I Know If I Have DRAM?
You can perform an easy test on yourself to see if you have a DRAM.
A gap of 1-2cm is considered normal but a gap any larger we strongly recommend having a physiotherapist experienced in treating DRAM see you. Due to the uterus needing time to reduce in size after birth it can be 6 weeks before the test provides a definite result of whether you have a diastasis recti but it is important to start the exercises as soon as possible after the birth.
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What Can Be Done?
It is important to have a physiotherapist set you specific exercises to help correct the DRAM. The normal tummy exercises such as abdominal curls and planks actually make it worse. The exercises the physiotherapist will set you will work the core muscles such as tranversus abdominis and pelvic floor and this will help the DRAM to correct and also reduce your ‘mummy tummy’. They can also apply tape to your tummy to help create the effect of these muscles as a temporary effect while you build up the muscle strength yourself.
Is It An Issue After Caesearean Also?
The surgeon will cut through the abdominal muscles and fascia when performing a caeserean and then usually stitch the fascia and abdominal muscles back together when closing up after removing the baby. However the same treatment for DRAM is recommended for mothers who have had a caeserean section to help the connective tissues heal in the best way.
How Long Will It Take To Correct?
It is common to see a difference after 3 weeks of doing the exercises but to fully correct normally takes a few months up to one year.