Abdominal Muscle Separation – In pregnancy and Beyond

Abdominal Muscle separation (rectus diastasis) is a common occurrence during pregnancy, although many women are unaware that they have this condition.  Whilst this separation is a natural occurrence to accommodate a growing baby, it is important to prevent or minimize the degree of separation during pregnancy and monitor it carefully postnatally to ensure that it does not become problematic.

Diastasis Recti is simply a term for separation of the rectus abdominis muscle which is the outer “6 pack” muscle running from the breastbone to the pubic bone.  The muscle comprises a left and right half which is joined down the centre by thick connective tissue called the linea alba.  During pregnancy, this connective tissue stretches due to the growing baby and can become thinner and in some circumstances develop tears.  This causes the outer abdominal muscles to function ineffectively with the possibility of developing other issues such as lower back pain, core instability, incontinence, hernias, postural issues and the much complained about “mummy tummy”.

If you are pregnancy, there are some ways to assist in preventing a large diastasis.  Ensuring good posture, appropriate core muscle exercises, and avoiding excessive weight gain during pregnancy call all be beneficial.  Some people have a genetic predisposition to developing a large diastasis due to weaker connective tissue.  Pregnant women may notice a bulge or dome of the centre of the abdominal wall when they go to rise from a reclined position.  This is a tell-tale sign of an abdominal separation.

After having a baby, women should have their abdominal muscles assessed within the first month to determine degree and severity of any diastasis present.  Specific exercises can be prescribed by a physiotherapist along with supporting garments/braces to assist the recovery of the abdominal muscles.  In severe cases, surgery may be necessary but is generally not encouraged until you have finished having children unless hernias are present.  Early intervention offers the best chance of recovery so don’t delay in seeking help if you think that have may have an abdominal muscle separation.

Rebecca Steele is a physiotherapist with a special interest in the area of Women’s Health and can be contacted at Hinteractive Physio in Cooroy on 5442 5556.

On September 28th, 2016, posted in: Physiotherapy by

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