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Diastasis Recti Abdominis: What You Need to Know
8/1/2020 1:00:00 PM

Diastasis Recti Abdominis

Diastasis Recti Abdominis (DRA) is the Latin way to describe a condition in which the large abdominal muscles (aka the six-pack) separate either partially or completely, often during pregnancy or childbirth, in order to accommodate a growing baby. Katherine Stewart, physical therapist and co-owner at Thrive Physical Therapy, says this natural process happens to most pregnant women by week 35. Sixty percent of women will continue to notice an abdominal separation at six weeks postpartum and by six months to one year only 30% of women reported DRA. Thrive magazine touched base with Stewart to learn more about this common aspect of pregnancy.

What are the symptoms of DRA?

Possible symptoms of DRA include "doming” or "coning” while performing a curl-up or getting out of bed. Other signs include a feeling of separation above and below your belly button, low back pain with activity, urinary incontinence, and an increase in pressure in the lower pelvic region.

What are the causes or risk factors?

DRA is caused by excessive inner-abdominal pressure. During pregnancy, your abdominal muscles and connective tissues stretch due to your expanding uterus. Studies show no significant difference in prevalence in women with respect to age, BMI, ethnicity, height, history of abdominal surgery or back or neck injury, weight gain during pregnancy, pre-pregnancy weight, gestational age at delivery, method of delivery, multiple pregnancy (e.g. twins, triplets, etc.) or diabetes (pre- existing or gestational).

How is DRA treated?

There are a few different treatment methods for DRA including abdominal binding, surgery, and exercise rehabilitation. 

  • Binding can be beneficial in the early postpartum stage to provide guidance on activation of the correct muscles during movement and to provide external support to aid in reducing back pain and strain. 
  • Surgery is an option for those with a significant widening of the rectus abdominus, however surgery will only aid in "closing the gap” and will not increase the strength of the muscles or their ability to perform at their optimal level. 
  • Exercise rehabilitation focuses on education and strengthening of the muscles that make up your core (transverse abdominis and pelvic floor) in order to provide support to your body. Although "closing the gap” is a main concern for most women, this isn’t always an assurance that your muscles have been completely healed following birth.  

Is there anything women can do to prevent DRA?

Core strengthening exercises may help, but otherwise DRA is a normal process that your body may go through during pregnancy. I educate my patients to know the signs of when DRA has occurred and to avoid increased abdominal pressure and coning in the positions that they notice it the most. For example, if you notice your DRA is present during a sit-up or heavy lifting, refrain from performing such activities for the remainder of pregnancy or modify the activity. 

Are there any long-term complications from DRA?

DRA is not something that should be feared. While DRA may cause temporary symptoms, it can be reduced and should not cause long lasting effects if managed properly. A physical therapist who specializes in postpartum recovery can recommend exercises to help improve diastasis recti symptoms.

For more information or to make an appointment, call Thrive Physical Therapy at 337-990-5621.

Posted by: Angie Kay Dilmore | Submit comment | Tell a friend

Categories: Parenting

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