Abdominal Separation (Diastasis Recti)
by Shira Kramer (Women’s Health Physiotherapist)
53% of women suffer DRA (abdominal separation) immediately postpartum and 36% of those remain abnormally wide at 5-7 weeks postpartum
66% of all patients with DRA (abdominal separation) had support-related pelvic floor dysfunction (SPFD), diagnoses of stress urinary incontinence, faecal incontinence, and pelvic organ prolapse.
Women who suffer from abdominal separation are more likely to experience back-ache, hernias, pelvic girdle pain and pelvic floor dysfunction and may require various incontinence products, so it’s essential to try and repair these muscles after pregnancy. They are also likely to experience poor abdominal tone or the common “mummy tummy” (protruded stomach).
A quick Self check for abdominal separation.
For a quick self check of a diastisis lie on your back and place your finger facing towards your feet at the level of the belly button. Place a few fingers in and then relax your abdmonial muscles as you come up as if you are doing a sit up (abdominal curl) by just lifting your shoulder blades off floor. Do not come up too high or you may get a false positive as the muscles close over again. Feel with your fingers how far apart the gap is between the 2 edges of muscle. You may need more fingers in or an extra hand. Check this again above and then below the belly button.
If you have a diastisis recti you will feel a gap between the edges of the muscle. Feel how far apart and also how deep the gap is.
When you have to do something about your abdominal separation.
A midline separation of > 2 finger width is considered problematic.
Ideally it is best to have this assessed by a women’s health physiotherapist who can prescribe and fit you for appropriate compression garments and assess your muscle function. They can then set you up on a specific exercise program to rehabilitate your abdominal muscles. The aims of treatment is to close the gap as much as possible and restore muscle function of the abdominal wall. The deep abdominal muscles act as a corset to support your back and abdominal organs so keeping them strong is crucial. If left untreated a floppy abdomen may result along with back and pelvic pain, pelvic floor dysfunction and a weak core. It can also lead to postural problem and self esteem issues
A women’s health physiotherapist can give you a tailored program to correct your abdominal separation and have you meet your specific goals.
Click here (abdominal separation treatment) for more information about what you can do about this at home and with your health care professional.