What the Heck, Belly?
Have you been struggling with trying to lose weight in your belly—but no matter what you do, it just doesn't go away? It could be due to something that many people have never heard of called diastasis recti. I discovered this condition when this happened to me. Actually, my belly seemed to be looking bigger than it did before, and it was really frustrating because I had been working so hard.
What Is Diastasis Recti?
Diastatis recti, also known as abdominal splitting, is when the connective tissue, called linea alba, between the two sides of the abdominal (rectus abdominis) muscles becomes stretched. It is considered diastasis recti if there is at least a gap of 2.7 centimeters or more. I have included a video below on how to test yourself to see if you have this condition, as well as some exercises that can be done that will heal the split.
Women who have been pregnant, especially if they're over 30 and have had multiple pregnancies or more than one baby at a time, are probably affected the most because most women want their pre-baby figure to return. Usually, the split will heal on its own within a couple months of pregnancy if allowed to heal. However, oftentimes it doesn't and women end up looking like they're always a few months pregnant.
Allow It To Heal After Pregnancy
After my children were born, as soon as it was comfortable, I was ready to get rid of the weight I had gained and work on getting a flat tummy. The first things I started doing were traditional ab exercises such as sit-ups, crunches, and anything I could do that would get my pre-baby figure back and fitting into my jeans again.
Unfortunately, by doing those types of exercises, it actually can make the split larger thereby increasing the protrusion and making it even harder to get rid of. Anything that causes your abdominal muscles to push out, such as how they feel when sit-ups or crunches are done, is going to cause it to worsen. That's why there are special movements that can be done that work on the inner core muscles first which will begin healing the diastasis recti.
Diagram of Abdominal Area
Anyone Can Have Diastasis Recti
Women aren't the only ones who have this condition. Actually, it's most common in newborn babies but it generally heals on its own. Men can also be affected but of course, neither of those are caused from pregnancy.
Different Variations of Diastasis Recti
How I Discovered Diastasis Recti
After my last children were born (twin girls), as soon as it was comfortable, I began doing sit-ups, crunches, Pilates at home, and any other ab exercises to try and get rid of my post-baby belly bulge. It went down somewhat, but it never looked how I wanted it to. I figured I would just have to live with the fact that I would always look like I was a few months pregnant. I had never really had a "flat" tummy, anyway, which I thought was because I was born with an umbilical hernia and subsequently an outie bellybutton.
When my daughters were around six years old, I decided to take a core conditioning class at the local community college. It made a little difference but not as much as I wanted, so I kept working really hard. Eventually, I began to notice that my bellybutton was beginning to protrude more. I went to the doctor and found out that I had an umbilical hernia. I didn't know at the time but when diastasis recti is left untreated, it can result in an umbilical hernia. I went in for surgery to repair the umbilical hernia and was excited that I would no longer have my outie bellybutton. But I still had a protruding belly, which was especially worse after eating or drinking.
What Is Diastasis Recti?
I Want to Know...
How It Looks
Gonna Get that Flat Belly
My tummy seemed like it was there for the long-haul, but was an uninvited guest. I was tired of it protruding and having that bloated feeling. I enrolled in Pilates for a semester at school and am a pretty active person, but nothing was making a difference. After Pilates, I decided to take a semester of belly dancing. I thought for sure that would do it. I wasn't about to give up because even after having multiple children, I know it is absolutely possible to gain muscle and have a flat, sexy belly.
I decided that belly dancing at school and at home and all the other stuff I do would kick my belly's butt and get rid of it once and for all but after three or more months of working really hard, I'd look at myself in the mirror and it almost seemed like it was getting more round. What the heck? I was confused.
I searched on the Internet, "why isn't my belly going away after excercising" or something to that effect and I got several results of the same thing, something called "diastasis recti." So I started reading and realized that's it! I knew why I wasn't getting the results I so desired. The semester ended and I love belly dancing, but the ab exercises I was doing at home were actually doing more harm than good.
Traditional Ab Exercises Don't Work with Diastasis Recti
In my learning about this condition, I found out that the traditional ab exercises I was doing were actually doing more harm than good because any exercise you do that you have to push out your abs, like sit ups, crunches, whatever, actually stretch the linea alba even further, making it worse. Plus, the back problems that I had been having weren't getting any better either. I always felt like someone was standing behind me pushing my lower back in. But I think what I was feeling was my insides trying to protrude through the gap caused by the condition. Since it's nearly healed, my back feels much better and I no longer have the protruding belly I once had. Yay!
Resources for Further Information
- Diastasis recti: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia
- Diastasis Recti Definition|Muscle Separation|Etiology
Describes diastasis recti/abdominal separation – stretching of connective tissue. Condition in men, women and children, includes video
- Diastasis Recti: Why Ab Separation Happens and How It's Treated
Why do I still look pregnant? That post-baby belly pooch may be diastasis recti, and how to remove it may surprise you. Find out at WebMD.
Do You have Diastasis Recti? Here's How to Check Yourself!
Links for More Information and Exercises
- The Personal Trainer's Guide to Diastasis Recti | What is Diastasis Recti? | thePTDC
What is diastasis recti and how do you repair it? It's the separation of the rectus abdominis muscles and if untreated may result in imbalances and pain.
- 12 Weeks of Workouts to Rebuild After Diastasis Recti | Breaking Muscle
Click Here to Download a PDF of the Entire 12-Week Cycle Diastasis recti is a thinning of the tissue that connects the two sides of the rectus abdominis. This tissue is called the linea alba.
- How to get rid of diastasis recti | Exercises to correct diastasis recti
See how to get rid of diastasis recti (or abdominal separation) after giving birth. Also see how to check for diastasis recti and see diastasis recti exercises to correct your abdominal separation
- Diastasis Recti. Exercises To Do and Exercises To Avoid
FAQ's on Diastasis Recti. Self test, exercises to correct diastasis recti, exercises to avoid which will make it worse!
What Else I Learned
In my research of this condtion I learned that it can be surgically repaired. I was astonished when I found out that the surgery is a tummy tuck. The reason why I was astonished is because I wondered why doctors don't tell post-partum moms not to do sit-ups or any of the traditional exercises we have all been led to believe will bring us that flat tummy we so desire. Now I'm no conspiracy theorist but what the heck? Why isn't this ever mentioned? I'm just glad I never went and got a tummy tuck and spent all that money because now that I've learned what exercises to do to repair my diastasis recti, it won't be long now until I get the (keeping fingers crossed) six pack, or at least a flat belly I know exists once the diastasis heals.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.