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What Every Woman Should Know About Postpartum Diastasis Recti

Co-Authored by Adriana Davis, SPTA, Houston Community College

There are many well-known symptoms associated with pregnancy, such as food cravings, nausea, and cramping. Unfortunately, there are other not-so-great things going on with women's bodies during and after pregnancy that aren’t widely talked about. Diastasis recti (DR) is one of them. It often goes ignored and is not commonly discussed alongside pregnancy. It is actually very prevalent, and a recent study of 84 first-time pregnant women found that 100% of them had some form of DR by gestational week 35.

The Doctors of Physical Therapy at Elation Physical Therapy have become highly knowledgeable regarding diastasis recti and how to properly manage it. With locations in Houston Heights, Pearland, and Cypress, we are well-equipped to take on any challenges you may be facing before and after pregnancy.

What is diastasis recti and why does it happen?

DR is when the two sides of the abdominal muscles overstretch and widen apart. This happens because as the fetus grows, it begins to alter the shape of the abdominals creating a gap that can be up to and greater than 2 centimeters wide. After giving birth, these muscles may retract on their own over time, or they may require physical therapy intervention.

What are the related symptoms?

With DR, your core muscles can become very weak resulting in symptoms such as low back pain, pelvic pain, and even poor posture. The most common complaint with DR is the "mommy pooch", which gives the appearance of a protruding belly. A forward tilting pelvis may also develop because of poor posture, only exaggerating the "pooch" appearance. Low back pain can become a symptom due to the weakness of muscles in the abdominal area.

What can you do about it?

Starting core stabilization exercises can help you strengthen these overstretched and weakened muscles as well as improve the associated symptoms. Abdominal activations have been shown to improve the appearance and distance of the DR separation. Start by lying flat on your back and imagine pulling your belly button towards your spine, as if you were putting on a tight pair of jeans, hold this position for 3-5 seconds for 3 sets of 10 repetitions. In many cases, smaller diastasis gaps may be able to completely close with the correct interventions but unfortunately, larger gaps may require surgical intervention to fully close.

Physical therapy at Elation Physical Therapy focuses on strengthening your core and abdominal muscles to decrease pain and the DR gap. It is never too late to start physical therapy no matter how far postpartum you are, and the decision to attend is a significant step towards improving your health. In conclusion, pregnancy can bring on a wide variety of unwanted changes in women's bodies. If these issues continue to persist, give us a call and schedule an appointment at one of Elation Physical Therapy’s locations for an initial evaluation with one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy.

Dr. Roy Rivera, Jr., PT, PhD, DPT, MCHES Dr. Roy Rivera, Jr., PT, PhD, DPT, MCHES Dr. Rivera is a licensed physical therapist and owner of Elation Physical Therapy in Houston and Pearland, Texas. Working across a variety of health care settings, Dr. Rivera has a philosophy and interest in helping people reach or return to their peak physical conditions in the face of physiological setbacks. After earning his Bachelor of Arts in Biology at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, Dr. Rivera went on to earn his Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Dr. Rivera continued his education at the Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions in Provo, Utah, completing his Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT). He then went on to earn his Doctor of Philosophy in Health Studies at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas.

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