Post-Pregnancy Belly Bulge: The Reason And Ways To Treat It

3 min

The belly pooch that you have weeks or even a year after you have given birth might bother you. It is funny how excited pregnant women are to see their bellies protruding with each trimester. But when you still look pregnant much longer after the delivery, it’s no fun. If you the not happy kinds, blame it on a condition of the abdomen called diastasis recti. This helps the fat stay on in spite of you maintaining a good diet and exercising regularly. Here is what you need to know about the condition:

What Is Diastasis Recti?

The spacing between the left and the right abdominal wall muscles vertically, which, results in the widening of the waistline and around belly pooch is called diastasis recti. As the muscles move sideways, it affects the integrity of the core mainly in the front. The gap between the abdominal walls is usually measured by the spacing of two or three fingers.

Diastasis recti can occur either above or below the naval. As per the Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy, 68% of women have the condition above the naval while 32% have it below the naval.

What Causes Diastasis Recti?

Your hormones and the inability of the uterus to shrink back to its original state cause diastasis recti. During pregnancy, your hormones cause the connective tissue called linea alba to thin out to make room for the enlarging uterus so that your baby can grow in the utero. After delivery, the hormone levels come back to the pre-pregnancy levels. This improves the tissues to regain their former state. But in quite a few cases the elasticity goes beyond the capacity to retract into its original state. You can liken this to an overstretched rubber band that does not shrink back.

Does Diastasis Recti Have Other Side Effects

Owing to the way the muscles are connected, diastasis recti affects the pelvis and the lower back as well which is why your pelvic floor would weaken, and you would have pain in the hips. The condition can also cause urinary continence. Since the abdominal wall muscles become weak, they also don’t hold the organs in place and therefore quite a few women suffer from digestive problems. Also, a few women might tend to lean backward because of weak abdominal muscles, thereby affecting their posture.

When Does The Spacing In Diastasis Recti Begin?

The spacing can begin even before you are pregnant. The hormones progesterone and relaxin work in full swing to help the connective tissue open up for birthing. However, the distribution of relaxin also varies from woman to woman. Therefore one cannot predict the degree of relaxin activity. Most women have diastasis recti by the third trimester. So you might want to take up the right exercises to prevent the condition.

How Can You Prevent Diastasis Recti?

You should start working towards preventing the gap between the abdominal muscles right during the pregnancy. Make sure you make a long roll onto one side with your head and torso aligned and using your arm to push yourself up to a sit-up as you get out of the couch, bed, or floor.

You should also do a few exercises that strengthen your abdominal muscles. Core compression exercises that draw belly to the spine is the best way. Cardiovascular exercises and resistance training are also quite effective in controlling diastasis recti.

Staying active and doing everyday activities, including picking up your baby, will significantly correct the transverse abdominal muscles.

The condition can be corrected even if it has been a few years since you gave birth by doing the right exercises.

What You Should Not Do To Correct Diastasis Recti?

Avoid doing crunches. Crunches can worsen diastasis recti, as they would increase the bulging and exert pressure on the midline. If you had been doing crunches over a prolonged time, then a small degree of spacing would have already occurred. Avoid doing Pilates and the planks as they will only worsen the condition.

You don’t need to get plastic surgery done unless you have a hernia or are experiencing pain.

How Can You Confirm That You Have Diastasis Recti?

By lying on your back with your knees bent and feet firm on the floor, put one hand on your belly with your fingers on the navel. Now by keeping your shoulders firm on the ground, bring your head up to assume a mini crunch-like posture. Press your fingertip down gently on the naval. If you have a spacing of the muscles, you can feel it in terms of two, three, or more fingers’ separation.

What’s The Likelihood Of You Developing It?

Diastasis recti is more likely to develop in women who are petite. Besides this, women who have poor muscle tone, history of hernia, an unstable pelvis, multiple babies, babies later in life, sway back posture etc., are also prone to diastasis recti. The condition will recur if you have had it in the previous pregnancy.

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What If You Decide To Have A Corrective Surgery?

The surgery will involve tucking in the tummy and removing excess fat and skin. But surgery must be taken as the last option. Go if for it only if you are sure you don’t want to go in the family way again.

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