Bulging Belly or Diastasis Recti

Overview

Diastasis Recti occurs when your belly sticks out because the space between your left and right belly muscles has widened. You might call it a pooch, bulge or mummy tummy as this is very common among postpartum females. 

Diastasis Recti is defined as a gap larger than 2.7cm or a gap of about 3 fingers between the two sides of the rectus abdominis muscle at the midline of the abdomen.


Symptoms

The most common symptom of Diastasis Recti is a visible pooch or bulge in your stomach, especially when you strain or contract your abdominal muscles. Additional symptoms include: lower back pain and poor posture.

You can do a self-test to check if you have Diastasis Recti. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Put one hand on your belly, with your fingers on your midline at your navel. Press your fingertips down gently, and bring your head up into a mini crunch-like position with shoulders remaining on the ground. Feel if there is a separation in your rectus abdominis muscles that is two or three finger wide, or more.

Causes

Diastasis recti fingers gap at the linea alba

Diastasis Recti is caused by the stretching of a connective collagen sheath with excessive inner-abdominal pressure. This most frequently occurs in pregnant or postpartum women.

During pregnancy, the growing uterus expands your abdominal muscles and connective tissues, further aided by the hormones relaxin and estrogen. Pushing during delivery can also lead to diastasis recti.

The abdominal muscles work alongside the pelvic floor muscles, so it is common to face both pelvic floor dysfunction or urinary incontinence and Diastasis Recti at the same time.


Risk factors

Being pregnant when you are over 35, or having multiple childbirths make this condition more likely especially if they are close in age. Mothers who have a heavy baby, twins or triplets or more are also more likely to have Diastasis Recti.

Complications

With a separation of the abdomen, the uterus, bowels, and other organs are supported by a thin band of connective tissue. This could cause other complications such as: 

  • Difficult vaginal delivery
  • Lower back pain
  • Constipation
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Hernia, in extreme cases

Prevention

Strengthening your core muscles before you get pregnant or in the early stages of pregnancy might help prevent Diastasis Recti. It’s best to avoid putting excess strain on your abdominal muscles while pregnant.

Constipation, heavy lifting while standing up and sitting down can add significant pressure on the weak belly tissue, and should be avoided. Some exercises such as abdominal crunches, sit-ups and exercises focused on contracting the core muscles will further aggravate the condition.

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