Your body goes through some amazing physical changes as your baby grows and you prepare for childbirth. Your belly will grow bigger as your child develops, and this requires abdominal muscles to stretch and shift from their normal location. After childbirth, these tissues don’t always reposition or tighten on their own, and that can lead to a condition known as diatasis recti. The condition is more commonly referred to as mommy tummy or mommy pooch, and it involves some slight sagging of the skin in the belly region.
While it is not a condition that is threatening to your overall health, many women want to restore their core strength and eliminate the appearance of the sagging belly skin. Oftentimes the best way to do this and restore confidence in your appearance is with the help of a physical therapy routine. Below, we explain how a physical therapist can help you combat diastasis recti.
What Is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis recti involves a separation of the two rectus abdominis muscles in your midsection. These muscles run vertically up the abdomen, and as your child develops and your belly grows bigger, these muscles get pushed apart. This process occurs naturally during the pregnancy, with upwards of 40 percent of women still experiencing some diastasis recti formation six months postpartum.
As we mentioned above, diastasis recti is more of a cosmetic condition than a threat to your overall health, but many women may also notice that it is paired with strength loss in their core. Lifting your child into a car seat or picking them up off the ground may be a little more difficult as a result of decreased muscle support in your abdomen. Left untreated, this muscle weakness can mean that more stress is directed towards your hip and pelvis, potentially causing problems for these areas later in life.
Diagnosing And Treating Diastasis Recti
There are a number of more important aspects of your health that will be assessed during postpartum visits, so diastasis recti isn’t usually something that is diagnosed by your women’s care provider. Instead, many women notice the change in their belly appearance, perform a Google search or bring it up to their doctor, and find out that physical therapy tends to be the most common treatment path.
Treatment for diastasis recti really focuses on strengthening these two rectus abdominis muscles. Your physical therapist can develop a core strengthening program that helps this muscle elongation resolve quickly, restoring some strength to your core and reducing the visible appearance of diastasis recti. A core development PT program is the most common way to treat diastasis recti, but you don’t need to wait until after childbirth to begin focusing on your core.
Studies have found that women who participate in physical therapy exercises and a core strengthening program during their pregnancy can help to prevent the condition or make it easier for their body to restore normal muscle function following childbirth. However, it is important that you follow a PT-guided core strengthening routine while you are pregnant, as certain exercises, especially ones that put excess strain on your abdomen or require you to hold your breath to complete the exercise, may not be advised past a particular point in your pregnancy. Your OBGYN or a physical therapist can set you up with an individualized routine based on your specific needs.
By caring for your core prior to childbirth and by connecting with a physical therapist after delivery, many women will notice that their diastasis recti improves or resolves over the course of just a few weeks. Others may need a couple months to achieve best results, but if you stick to a program, we are confident that you can restore function and confidence in your belly area.
For more information about diastasis recti or other postpartum conditions, reach out to the physical therapy team at OrthoRehab Specialists today at (612) 339-2041.