So I was recently seeing a patient for a routine, postpartum visit. She was coming in for the 6 week visit that most women schedule to ensure that “all is well” post delivery of baby. If I’m seeing you for a six week visit, more than likely you’ve had a vaginal delivery.
So, my patient inquires, “Dr. Angela, do I have a rectus diastasis?”
I smiled and of course let out my hearty laugh, which, if you know me, you know is REALLY loud! In keeping it simple, here is how I answered her:
NO. You do not have a rectus diastasis.
First off, what is rectus diastasis? It literally means a separation between your abdominal(rectus)muscles. This is typically caused by a growing uterus putting stress on the overlying rectus muscles, as well as the hormones of pregnancy which are associated with making bones, joints, ligaments, and tissue much more relaxed.
How did I know? I had her lay flat on her back, with both knees at 90 degree angles; in essence, laying on your back with your legs bent and feet right below your buttocks 🙂 She then raised her head off the table putting her chin to her chest. I literally felt the space between her rectus muscles. Trust me, this can be done. It did NOT measure more than 2 finger-breadths; hence, I was comfortable in reassuring her that she did NOT have this condition.
What are risk factors? Age greater than 35. Multiple gestation or large babies….In essence, ANYTHING that increases the amount of stretching a uterus does. Remember, the larger the uterus, the more stretch the overlying abdominal(rectus) muscles have to do……Multiple pregnancies, especially if the pregnancies are close together, are also risk factors.
Dos and Dont’s. Do try to go with the flow. This means accepting all the changes that come along with pregnancy, most of which, are COMPLETELY out of our control. Try to avoid things such as constipation, lifting heavy objects(other kids included), or doing exercises/maneuvers that increase the valsalva or more simply put, “bearing down” motion. Also, post delivery, give yourself an opportunity to heal! I typically don’t recommend starting any ab exercises until you are at least 8 weeks post delivery, specifically if you had a c-section.
Some women like to wear those abdominal binders to sort of “hold things” or “bring things” back together while doing certain exercises. Seeing a physical therapist or a trainer that knows exactly what diastasis rectus is may be helpful as you don’t want to do exercises that could potentially make the condition worse, such as crunches, sit-ups, certain push-ups or planks.
Remember, the human body is an AMAZING machine! I am reminded on an almost daily basis just how INCREDIBLE women and our anatomy truly is! Give yourself time to recover.
Pregnancy is a BIG DEAL! Contrary to popular thought, you do need some time to “bounce back” from it. In most cases, proper diet, exercise, lots of TLC, and patience is enough to get back to where you were pre-pregnancy. While surgical options such as tummy tucks, etc, are always options, I can count on one hand the number of women I’ve taken care of that have actually had to resort to this, and I’ve been practicing for over 11 years!
Hoping this blog post has added value to your day!
Until next time,
Look Better. Feel Better. Be Better.
Wife, mother, Midwesterner, and award-winning OB/GYN, Dr. Angela is equal parts best girlfriend and bold professional, supporting women’s health with innovative approaches to care and heavy doses of humor. Dr. Angela has done more than launch a successful practice, she has defined herself as a voice for a new generation of womanhood, established her ASK DR. ANGELA brand committed to authenticity, and built a community rooted in trust, candor, and compassion.