Do you have separated abs after pregnancy?

DIASTASIS RECTI (DR)


What is DR?

Many of us may, or may not, have heard about this term. For those who have not, Diastasis Recti is the medical term for separation of your abdominal muscles, specifically, the Rectus Abdominis, which also means, separation of your 6 packs into left and right. Let’s call it DR for short.


How does a woman get DR?

DR is common among women and usually starts to develop during pregnancy and persists on after delivery. If not diagnosed or identified, condition may worsen that may then cause several other problems, such as backache, pelvic floor strain, prolapse of organs in the lower abdominals, deterioration of posture, muscle imbalances and other aches and pains.


Do I have DR?

DR can be identified with a simple test. You may lie on your back with your hips and knees bent with feet resting on floor, place tip of fingers perpendicular to your tummy above your belly button in a vertical position. Apply gentle pressure to allow your fingers sink slightly into your tummy. If you have DR, you should be able to feel a gap between your 6 packs. To confirm, lift your head up, as if to perform a sit-up. It is a positive sign when you feel the soft tissue beneath your fingers pushes your fingers out – this indicates that the muscles are not in synced and it cannot contract properly as it should. A normal or strong abdominal muscle should allow your fingers to deepen into your tummy without the feeling of the gap, and a sit-up should shrink your tummy, not bloat it up further. If this sounds complicated, just visit your physician or physiotherapist to help you.


What should I do?

If you suspect that you have DR, visit your physician or a physiotherapist to get confirmation. Do not attempt to perform any DIY exercises at home as the wrong exercises may generate pressure on different parts of your body and may cause more problems to your body rather than fixing the only problem.

What will the physiotherapist do?

The physiotherapist will perform a similar test mentioned – physiotherapists are trained professionally to touch, feel and assessed any abnormalities in the body. They will explain to you if you do or do not have DR, how bad is the gap, assess your muscle contractions, pelvic floor and core muscles. They will then craft a rehabilitative exercise program and any necessary therapeutic treatments, according to their findings.

The exercises prescribed, and advices given by the physiotherapists are customised to individuals. Exercises should be practiced on your own once every day until the next visit with your physiotherapist. A visit of at least twice a week is necessary to ensure close monitoring and good progress.


Does exercises really help?

Exercises, mainly targeting core strengthening and other exercises for abdominal muscles, has been proven to reduce the risk of a bad DR when performed during pregnancy. Hence, reducing the risk of persistent backache after delivery and other complications. However, it is never too late to start exercising after delivery, but duration of recovery might be lengthened as more damage has been done.


I heard that you can undergo a surgery to repair DR.

Yes, there are surgical intervention known in the hospital settings. However, surgeries will not get your abdominal strength back. Muscle strength are only achieved through exercises and constant training. A surgical intervention is only necessary if your DR is severe or if you have multiple complications. Even after surgery, you should still visit a physiotherapist to rehabilitate your core and pelvic floor strength, improve flexibility, scar management, posture and ergonomic education, and get some functional training done.

DR requires the mother to work closely with their physiotherapist to understand their own condition and to appreciate the exercise training that she has to go through, to obtain a good progress of recovery. A properly-guided recovery training is important to help prevent physical problems as the mother ages.

If you would like to join a community of mothers who had encountered the same problem and would like to know more, we are discussing these issues in the Women Wellness Blueprint (WWB) workshop that is happening in Kuala Lumpur. You may visit www.flexmobstudios.com/wwb or contact us for more details.


Article by,

Lavinia Chew,

Physiotherapist,

Founder of Flexmob Studios.


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