What is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis recti is a partial or complete separation of the midline abdominal muscles known as the rectus abdominis. This finding most often occurs in women during and after pregnancy. In fact, many pregnant women experience some form of this condition, as the growing uterus stretches muscles to accommodate a growing baby.
As mentioned, the stretching of abdominal muscles during pregnancy can cause diastasis recti. In addition, increased intra-abdominal pressure due to pushing during delivery can worsen the condition. All in all, it is quite common for a postpartum woman to experience diastasis recti. In mild cases, the muscular separation closes during the weeks after delivery, but in many cases, the problem is persistent and can cause physical complaints and self-confidence issues.
What Does Diastasis Recti Look Like?
Most often, a woman will notice a bulge or “pooch” in the belly area after pregnancy. As the abdomen contracts back down after delivery, some women notice an area of concern that does not seem to be flattening. This area of separation becomes more noticeable when the abdominal muscles contract. Generally, the bulge can occur above or below the belly button.
How Do I Know if I Have Diastasis Recti?
To self-check yourself for diastasis recti you can do a simple test. Lie on your back with your knees bent, and your feet flat on the floor. Supporting your head with one hand, raise your shoulders slightly off the floor and look down at your belly. Move your hand around the area above and below your belly button and feel for the musculature. If you can fit a few fingers width into the separation between the muscles, you are likely to have diastasis recti.
Some women have accompanying symptoms such as low back pain, postural changes, or gastrointestinal complaints like constipation or bloating, so any unusual symptoms warrant evaluation by a medical provider.
Can Exercise Actually Help?
In some cases, certain exercises can help this condition, but in many cases, the muscular gap only closes with surgical intervention. When left untreated, diastasis recti can lead to postural difficulties, back pain, and other systemic complaints, so if you are concerned about diastasis recti that is still present more than 8 weeks after delivery, you should make an appointment for a consultation with a plastic surgeon.
How To Prevent Diastasis Recti
While you may not be able to prevent all cases of diastasis recti, there are some tips to help prevent the condition during pregnancy. Try to maintain good posture and strong midline stabilization. Also, avoid heavy lifting that can further strain your body. In general, staying physically active, can help minimize your degree of diastasis recti. Of course, you should consult your OB/GYN prior to participation in any activities. Sometimes, no matter what you do, diastasis recti will occur, and at that point, it is a matter of treatment or repair.
How to Fix Diastasis Recti
The goal of diastasis recti surgery is to close the gap in the midline abdominal musculature and restore a smooth contour to a woman’s midsection. Ultimately, your plastic surgeon can discuss your specific case and suggest surgical components that may offer the optimal outcome for your goals.
In some cases, women have diastasis recti repaired through a surgery called rectus plication. This procedure refers to a sewing of the abdominal muscle and fascia together to create a tightened midline. Another abdominal tightening procedure called an internal corset can include permanent sutures that help narrow the waist and restore more of an “hourglass” appearance to the silhouette.
During procedures such as these, your surgeon may incorporate umbilical transposition to manage and ideally locate the navel to tighten and smooth muscles, without changing the natural location of the belly button.
Diastasis Recti Repair and Mommy Makeover
A skilled plastic surgeon can incorporate diastasis recti repair into other plastic surgery procedures such as the mommy makeover or tummy tuck (abdominoplasty). In general, if the diastasis recti impacts the aesthetics of the abdomen, the surgeon will likely repair it to achieve optimal results. Ultimately, the decision to undergo a surgical repair occurs after a thorough physical evaluation and discussion with the patient regarding her personal goals.
Liposuction and Diastasis Recti
Sometimes a woman may think liposuction will help flatten her tummy after pregnancy, but in fact, liposuction can make diastasis recti more noticeable if not addressed. This highlights why having a comprehensive plastic surgery plan specific to your goals is key. Liposuction can remove fat from the abdominal area, but cannot bring the muscles back together, so a tummy bulge may still be present after liposuction alone.
What is Repair Recovery Like?
Although every woman is different, most women should plan on 3-6 weeks of downtime after diastasis recti repair. Most women have some initial bruising and swelling, and some discomfort standing fully upright. Your specific recovery will depend on the specific surgical intervention and other accompanying procedures in your care plan. Your surgeon will be able to go over more specifics of your expected recovery during an in-office consultation.
Diastasis Recti Repair Specialist Scottsdale AZ
If you are concerned about the appearance of your abdomen or notice a gap in your abdominal musculature, the first step is to schedule a consultation with Dr. Ashley Howarth, a leading female plastic surgeon in Scottsdale. With expert training from the Mayo Clinic and high caliber surgical skills, Dr. Howarth is skilled in the diagnosis and repair of diastasis recti.
After a thorough evaluation and discussion of your personal goals, Dr. Howarth will develop a plan to restore the form and function of your abdomen. With her keen aesthetic eye and compassionate manner, Dr. Howarth is the top choice plastic surgeon for women in the Scottsdale region and beyond.