The Dreaded Diastasis Recti

Diastasis Recti, or abdominal separation, is something that many new or expecting moms have heard of and dread. There is an awful rumour that all, or most, women get this condition after having a baby.  It’s time to set that record straight, so let’s understand a little more about this condition and the anatomy involved.

First off, there is the outermost muscle of our abdominal wall, called the rectus abdominus, starting at the rib cage and descending vertically to the pubic bone.  This paired muscle is separated in the midline by a band of connective tissue called the linea alba, which is where the diastasis occurs.

Next, we have the “deep core” muscles, which are comprised of the pelvic floor muscles, transversus abdominus, multifidus, and diaphragm. This team of muscles control pressure within the abdomen and works along with the outer abdominal muscles to create stability at your center.

Diastasis Recti is a natural thinning, or separation, of the rectus abdominis at the midline during pregnancy, which is a necessary occurrence for the purpose of growing a little human inside. This separation allows a pregnant women’s abdomen to accommodate for the new growth and supporting structures (uterus, placenta, fluid), while still giving mom’s organs room to function. The diastasis is necessary; it’s what we want to happen.

The problem, however, is that some women retain this abdominal separation postpartum, which can impede the function of our core stability system. When the structure of the rectus abdominis is changed, the overall core function may be compromised. This can contribute to some adverse effects, including pelvic and low back pain, incontinence, or unhappiness with ones’ abdominal appearance.

The good news is that, while women do develop this diastasis during pregnancy, many women do not retain it postpartum. For those women who do present with a residual abdominal separation, no need to despair! Fortunately, there are many things that can be done to improve or correct this condition. With the proper knowledge and core control, this does not have to be a lifelong problem.

If you suspect you may have diastasis recti, it’s a good idea to be assessed by a pelvic floor physiotherapist to discuss a plan of action!