You were probably elated when your belly started to grow during pregnancy, but now that you’ve given birth, it’s not so endearing.
Even if you eat healthy and exercise regularly, that belly pooch can stick around. Chances are it’s due to diastasis recti, a common condition that can actually start before pregnancy but can linger on for months, even years, if it’s not corrected.
Find out what causes diastasis recti, the easy fix and why you should avoid crunches at all costs.
What is diastasis recti?
Stop comparing yourself to celebrities who are walking the red carpet weeks after giving birth. Maybe they’re wearing layers of Spanx, but the reality is that there’s no magic way to have a flat stomach right after giving birth. Six to eight weeks postpartum, your uterus is still shrinking back to its normal size so give yourself and your body a break.
After the first few months however, that belly pooch can stick around in spite of your best efforts. It’s known as diastasis recti, a separation of the rectus abdominis or “6-pack” muscles that run along the midline or center of the stomach. The connective tissue gets thin and weak and stretches sideways, which causes the waistline to widen and the belly to bulge forward.
“As those muscles migrate, it dramatically decreases the integrity of your core— especially in the front,” said Leah Keller, a pre- and post-natal fitness expert and founder of the Dia Method.
Diastasis recti is quite common. According to a study in the Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy, 68 percent of women had diastasis recti above the naval, while 32 percent had it below.
The rectus abdominis muscles also stretch vertically to create space for your baby, which can cause the muscles to be weakened.
“It takes a long time for that connective tissue to come back to its original tone,” Keller said.
Not just weak core muscles.
Because of the way the muscles connect, diastasis recti affects the lower back and pelvis, too. So you might have pain in your hips and back and a weak pelvic floor, which could lead to urinary continence.
What’s more, because women with diastasis recti don’t have a strong abdominal wall holding their organs in place, many suffer from digestive problems, said Jill Hoefs, a certified physical therapist who specializes in treating the condition.
Since the abdominal muscles are so weak, your posture can be affected because of the tendency to lean back.