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Plastic Surgery Blog

Diastasis Recti Abdominis


Women who bear children are often surprised at how pregnancy will change their bodies - often not for the better. One of these side effects of pregnancy is Diastasis Recti Abdominis. It's common in women who are over 35, deliver larger babies, or have had multiple pregnancies. Let's talk about Diastasis Recti Abdominis and how it affects women's bodies and health.

What Is Diastasis Recti Abdominis?

Diastasis of the rectus abdominis muscle (DRAM) is "an increase in the inter-recti abdominal muscle distance due to stretching and thinning of the linea alba." In other words, it is a midline separation of the muscles of the abdominal wall. The linea alba is a fibrous structure that runs down the middle of the abdomen. During pregnancy, a woman's abdominal muscles pull away from the linea alba to accommodate the growth of the baby. Her uterus expands enormously, widening the gaps between the rectus muscles (what is commonly referred to as the 6-pack). A widening of greater than 2.5 cm at the level of the umbilicus is considered a diastasis of the rectus abdominis muscle or Diastasis Recti Abdominis.

More than three million people are diagnosed with Diastasis Recti Abdominis every year. It tends to be more common in women who have had multiple pregnancies and in pregnant women who do not exercise. This is a chronic condition and can be lifelong in women who do not seek treatment, including surgery.

Different Variations of Diastasis Recti Abdominis

There are a number of variations of Diastasis Recti Abdominis that women experience.

  • Narrow-Normal - This is the pre-pregnancy condition of the abdominal muscles. Here the Diastasis Recti is closed with natural lines of distinction between the muscles.
  • Open Diastasis - Here the navel is where Diastasis Recti usually widens first and narrows last.
  • Open below Navel Diastasis - In this variation, the wider Diastasis Recti below the navel is often due to a pendulous pregnancy and/or hip alignment.
  • Open above Navel Diastasis - Here the wider Diastasis Recti is often due to rib alignment.
  • Completely Open Diastasis - In this variation the wider and deeper the Diastasis Recti is, the more it affects the abdominal muscles' ability to get a grip and flex right.

After delivery, even with weight loss, a woman's skin and muscles remain stretched - they do not bounce back to their pre-pregnancy state. In some women the stretching is not severe, and they heal on their own during the postpartum period. Others, unfortunately, suffer complications. The problems Diastasis Recti Abdominis can cause include back pain, bad posture, pelvic floor dysfunction, and hernias. While in some cases therapeutic exercises can help with the symptoms of Diastasis Recti Abdominis, for some women exercises - when done incorrectly - can actually make things worse.

Additionally, many women are also unhappy with the way their bodies look after pregnancy. For this reason they seek a surgical solution which would be a tummy tuck. A tummy tuck repairs that damage by tightening those muscles, pulling them back together, and removing the excess stretched skin. This procedure can remove much of the damage pregnancy does and turn back the clock on a woman's body, returning it more to what it was like before she became a mother.

If you think you are alone in your dissatisfaction with your post-pregnancy body, you are not. Many women feel just like you. To learn what Bancroft Feldman can do to help mitigate Diastasis Recti Abdominis and other side effects of pregnancy, contact us today. We have helped many women look and feel better so they can enjoy their children and feel confident about their bodies.

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