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April 21, 2020
By Carolyn Yates, PT, DPT
During the later part of pregnancy, your belly will expand to make room for the baby. During this time, your abdominal muscles may separate to allow your belly to expand fully. While it’s totally normal and very common, for some it doesn’t go away postpartum, which can cause back pain and instability. However, adjusting how you move can help limit the separation and set you up for a faster recovery.
Diastasis recti is the separation of the rectus abdominis muscles (aka the six-pack ab muscles). Diastasis during pregnancy is a totally normal occurrence and a 100% incidence rate of DR has been reported in some research studies. During pregnancy, increased levels of hormones (relaxin, progesterone, and estrogen) soften connective tissues and results in the weakening of the linea alba. The linea alba is the connective tissue that holds the medial edges of the neighboring rectus abdominis muscles together. As the baby grows, the linea alba continues to be stretched and the rectus abdominis muscles elongate around the baby. This is completely natural.
Different research studies have reported different levels of occurrence of diastasis during pregnancy but know that it is a natural occurrence and happens to allow for space for your growing baby. You most likely have a separation. The main things to focus on are not doing excessive movements that will exacerbate it.
Although most women will have a diastasis during pregnancy (remember, it is a natural occurrence to make space for growing babe), there are things you can do and avoid doing to help prevent more-than-necessary separation.
Things to avoid:
Things to do:
Remember, it is natural to have separation during pregnancy, but you don’t want to exacerbate it. Taking simple steps to avoid exacerbation and focusing on strengthening your transverse abdominis and pelvic floor muscles are the best things you can do for your body as your belly grows.
Carolyn Yates, PT, DPT is a Colorado State licensed Physical Therapist with a pelvic floor rehabilitation specialty. She received a Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) from Belmont University School of Physical Therapy and is the owner and head physical therapist of Verity Physical Therapy & Wellness in Boulder, CO.
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