Understanding the Abs: What Diastasis Recti Means for Moms and Babies

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Mothers and their newborn babies have much more in common than blue eyes or brown hair — and one of those commonalities may be a ridge on the belly caused by a condition called diastasis recti.

Diastasis recti occurs when the right and left sides of the rectus abdominis muscles separate significantly. As a result, the contents of the abdomen push through the space and create an elevated line that stretches from the breastbone to the belly button.

Who’s Affected?

Diastasis recti is most common in pregnant women, but it can also affect women who have just given birth, infants and, in rare cases, men.

In pregnant women, diastasis recti occurs when the abdomen wall experiences increased tension as the baby grows. The result may be the appearance of extra skin and soft tissue or visibility of the uterus on the belly. In extreme cases, women may notice the outline of their unborn baby. Women who have been pregnant before are more likely than new moms to develop diastasis recti because their muscles have been stretched repeatedly.   

Infants, especially newborns and African-American babies, may also develop diastasis recti. The condition can be caused by any activity that strains the abdominal muscles, such as sitting up or laughing. Diastasis recti in babies usually heals naturally as the babies grow.

When to See Your Doctor

Generally, the only complication created by diastasis recti is cosmetic. In some cases, however, diastasis recti may cause an umbilical hernia. If you are experiencing pain or if your baby is exhibiting any of the following, see your doctor immediately:

  • Continuous vomiting
  • Frequent crying
  • Redness in the abdominal area

Post-Pregnancy Healing

Diastasis recti may put a bit of a damper on any new mom’s post-delivery bliss, but you can remedy the condition with the proper exercises. Many yoga postures, such as bridge, cat-cow and legs-up-the-wall, provide gentle ways to tone your midsection while calming your mind at the same time. Be sure to breathe in and out deeply through your nose as you move to receive the full benefit of these healing exercises.

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