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Diastasis Recti: Is It Normal To Have Postpartum Belly Pouch?

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Diastasis Recti: Is It Normal To Have Postpartum Belly Pouch?
Diastasis recti is a common occurrence during and after pregnancy, affecting a significant number of women.

Experiencing diastasis recti, or the postpartum belly pouch, is a common occurrence for many women after pregnancy. Read on to know all about it.

Written by Editorial Team |Published : February 12, 2024 7:54 PM IST

Welcoming a new life into the world is a miraculous journey, but for many mothers, the aftermath of pregnancy includes physical changes that may raise questions about what's considered normal. One such concern is diastasis recti, commonly referred to as the postpartum belly pouch. Let's delve into what diastasis recti is, explore whether it's normal to experience it, and discuss ways to address and manage this condition.

What is Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis recti is a condition characterized by the separation of the rectus abdominis muscles, the pair of muscles that run vertically down the abdomen, forming what is commonly known as the 'six-pack'. During pregnancy, as the uterus expands to accommodate the growing baby, the connective tissue between these muscles, called the linea alba, stretches. In some cases, this stretching can lead to a noticeable gap between the muscles, creating the appearance of a bulging or pouch-like belly, particularly in the area between the navel and the pubic bone.

Is it normal to have diastasis recti after pregnancy?

The answer is yes, to some extent it is. Diastasis recti is a common occurrence during and after pregnancy, affecting a significant number of women. In fact, studies suggest that around two-thirds of women experience some degree of abdominal separation during the third trimester. While it's normal for the muscles to stretch to accommodate the growing baby, the issue arises when the separation persists postpartum and contributes to the postpartum belly pouch.

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How severe can it be?

The severity of diastasis recti varies from woman to woman. Some may notice a minor separation that resolves naturally in the weeks following childbirth, while others may experience a more pronounced gap that lingers. Factors such as genetics, the number of pregnancies, and abdominal muscle strength can influence the likelihood and severity of diastasis recti.

Though it is considered normal to have some degree of diastasis recti postpartum, women must monitor their abdominal muscles and seek guidance from healthcare professionals if they notice a persistent separation. A proper diagnosis can help determine the severity and guide appropriate interventions if needed.

Ways to address diastasis recti

There are many ways to deal with this issue. Here we list a few of them.

Exercise

Addressing diastasis recti involves a combination of exercises, lifestyle adjustments, and, in some cases, professional guidance. Physical therapists specializing in postpartum care can provide targeted exercises to strengthen the deep core muscles and help close the gap. Pelvic floor exercises, such as Kegels, are often recommended to support overall core strength.

Yoga & Pilates

Engaging in postpartum-friendly exercises, such as gentle yoga or pilates, can be beneficial. These activities focus on building core strength while being mindful of the abdominal muscles' condition. It's crucial to avoid traditional crunches or intense abdominal exercises, as they can exacerbate the separation and delay healing.

Wearing Abdominal Belt

Wearing a supportive abdominal binder or splint may also aid in the healing process. These garments provide gentle compression to the abdominal area, offering support to weakened muscles and promoting proper alignment. However, it's essential to use such devices under the guidance of a healthcare professional to ensure they are appropriate for individual circumstances.

Nutrition

Nutrition plays a role in the recovery process as well. Eating a balanced diet rich in nutrients, especially those that support collagen formation, can contribute to tissue repair. Staying hydrated is also crucial for overall health and healing.

What to do in severe cases

In more severe cases of diastasis recti, where conservative measures prove insufficient, surgical intervention may be considered. Abdominoplasty, commonly known as a tummy tuck, can repair the separated muscles and remove excess skin. However, surgery is typically reserved for cases where the diastasis recti significantly impacts a woman's quality of life, and conservative measures have not yielded the desired results.

The last word

In conclusion, experiencing diastasis recti, or the postpartum belly pouch, is a common occurrence for many women after pregnancy. While it is considered normal to some extent, monitoring the severity and seeking guidance from healthcare professionals is crucial for proper management. Through targeted exercises, lifestyle adjustments, and, when necessary, professional guidance, women can address diastasis recti and work towards regaining strength and abdominal integrity postpartum. Every woman's journey is unique, and with the right support, the postpartum period can be a time of healing and empowerment.

(This article is authored by Dr Manisha Tomar - Consultant - Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospitals, Noida)