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Diastasis Recti and Pregnancy

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.

What is diastasis recti?

Diastasis recti is a condition that causes muscles in your abdomen to separate. The muscles run along the left and right sides of the abdomen, from the ribcage to the pelvis. Pressure pushes the muscles apart. The muscles may separate above your belly button, below it, or both. Diastasis recti can happen to men and to non-pregnant women. This is usually because of obesity or weightlifting. It is most common in pregnant women. The main cause is pressure on the abdominal muscles from the growing baby. Pregnancy hormones also help connective tissues in the abdomen loosen.

What increases my risk for diastasis recti in pregnancy?

  • Being pregnant with more than one baby
  • Weak abdominal muscles
  • Obesity before or during pregnancy
  • Swelling or fluid in your abdomen
  • Age over 35 years

What are the signs and symptoms of diastasis recti?

  • A lump in the middle of your abdomen that gets bigger when you cough, sneeze, or sit up
  • Pain in your abdomen, pelvis, or back
  • Problems controlling your urine or bowel movements
  • Still looking pregnant months after you deliver

How is diastasis recti managed or treated?

Diastasis recti often gets better on its own 4 to 6 weeks after delivery. Surgery is sometimes used to repair and strengthen the muscles. The following can help you manage diastasis recti during or after pregnancy:

  • Go to physical therapy (PT), if directed. You will need to wait at least 2 weeks after you deliver before you can do exercises you learn in therapy. Do not try abdominal exercises without your physical therapist. PT can help you with the following:
    • Improve movement and strength
    • Decrease pain
    • Strengthen abdominal muscles with safe exercises
    • Learn to lift objects safely
    • Sit up from a lying position without using muscles in your abdomen
  • Do not lift anything heavier than 10 pounds. Heavy lifting can make your symptoms worse. Ask someone to help you lift heavy objects. If you must lift an object by yourself, do not use your back muscles to lift. Lift with your legs.
    How to Lift Items Safely
  • Wear a binder as directed. A binder can help support your muscles and decrease pain. Ask your healthcare provider where to buy a binder.
  • Protect your abdomen when you are not wearing a binder. Support your abdomen when you cough. If possible, hug a pillow to your abdomen to keep it braced. Certain exercises will strain your abdominal muscles. Do not perform sit-ups, crunches, or leg raises. Your physical therapist can show you ways to do these exercises safely.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Your healthcare provider can tell you how much weight is safe to gain during your pregnancy. He or she can also recommend a healthy weight for after delivery. Your provider can help you create a safe weight loss plan if needed.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You vomit blood.
  • You have black bowel movements or see blood in your bowel movements.
  • You have severe pain in your abdomen or pelvis.
  • You have a sudden increase in the size of the bulge that cannot be pushed back in.

When should I call my doctor or obstetrician?

  • You have nausea or are vomiting.
  • You have new or worsening trouble controlling your urine or bowel movements.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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