You probably have never heard of diastasis recti or “DR” until you had a baby.
A common condition seen in pregnant and post-partum mothers, diastasis recti happens when the abdominal muscles (the muscles that are more colloquially known as “six-pack”) separate during pregnancy because they have been stretched.
The process is natural and happen to every pregnant woman, because it is the body’s own way of making space for the baby to grow. To accommodate for this body change, there are also hormonal changes during pregnancy that loosen and relax ligaments and muscles, which aid in this “separation” of the muscles.
Cheryl Han, founder of Orchard Clinic, a specialised treatment centre that offers solutions for women’s body from pre- and post-pregnancy, told Daily Vanity that some 60% of mothers continue to have abdominal muscles that are separated after pregnancy, and this is known as diastasis recti.
“This occurs due to excessive intra-abdominal pressure that stresses and stretches the connective tissue (linea alba) holding the left and right abdominal muscles together. Studies commonly agree a distance wider than 2cm will define a Diastasis Recti. One can think of it as a corset that has loosened,” she explains.
Diastasis recti symptoms
For some women, the muscles don’t go back to their original positions after the baby is delivered.
Women who suffer from diastasis recti typically notice a persistent bulge or feel that their belly is sticking out. Other diastasis recti symptoms include lower back pain and loose skin.
Having seen hundreds of diastasis recti cases, Han said that they observed a few trends:
- Diastasis recti often leads to a weak pelvic floor and incontinence (and vice versa) as the core muscles are all connected
- Mothers who have left the condition unaddressed for over a period of five years, or mothers above the age of 35, tend to present more severe cases (with wider and deeper gaps)
- Losing the post-pregnancy weight doesn’t mean that a diastasis recti is healed, and on the contrary, a bulging tummy may not be diastasis recti
- Doing the wrong exercises will worsen the diastasis recti and she has seen many cases as such. This is why she recommends doing an assessment first, before jumping back to exercise.
Without seeing a professional, Orchard Clinic’s Han said that it’s possible for a woman to check if she is suffering from diastasis recti.
“Come into a reclined position with your knees bent, and use your fingers to feel down along your midline. Take a breath in. As you exhale, just slightly lift your head and shoulders to come into a gentle crunch.
Press down along the midline now and you will feel the gap between the abdominal walls. How wide or deep this cavity is can be measured by your fingers or with a ruler.”
You can also watch this video to find out more about how you can do a DR self-assessment.
Who are more at risk?
Han says that women who carry heavier babies, multiple babies, or are over age 35 when pregnant are more at risk of a DR.
“Other factors such as genetics and skin quality also matter,” she adds.
“Many studies have been inconclusive regarding the prevention of DR. Some mothers who have strong core muscles but are genetically inclined to have looser skin/tissues could also have DR,”
“Nonetheless we have found that strengthening the core muscles will support a better pregnancy and may reduce the chances of DR. So we often recommend mothers to start early and to adopt a healthy and protein-rich diet.”
Diastasis recti exercises
There are exercises you can try to do at home that can improve diastasis recti.
Han recommends floorwork with a focus on abdominal and pelvic floor strengthening.
“But we recommend it being a supervised session. Improperly performed exercises not only exacerbate the condition, but discourages the mother as well,” she warns.
She also recommends general light-impact exercises such as swimming or walking, which will do well for the body, even though they aren’t targeted.
Diastasis recti treatments
There is a spectrum of diastasis recti treatments to choose from.
Han said that the most conservative DR treatment is physical exercises and the most invasive would be corrective surgical procedures such as abdominoplasty.
“At Orchard Clinic, our method is a new treatment concept that provides fast and effective results without the need for surgery. This is because we employ the latest medical-grade technology for a complete treatment, and our knowledge and expertise from specialising in DR allows us to thoroughly understand and customise a treatment plan for each individual.”
Han claims that Orchard Clinic has shown a 100% improvement rate and 98% recovery rate through their method.
“We always stress that this is not an overnight solution as it takes time for muscles and skin to recover. However, it is a long lasting solution as we deal with the root cause of the issue.”
The recovery rate is based on a myriad of conditions, such as age, how long it’s been left alone and the number of pregnancies.
Related: Post-pregnancy treatments you never knew you needed
Orchard Clinic is located at:
- 320 Orchard Road, Tong Building #06-03, Singapore 238862
- 18 Jalan Masjid, Kembangan Plaza #B1-07, Singapore 418944
- 1 Fifth Avenue, Guthrie House #02-09, Singapore 268802