Diastasis Recti is the partial or complete separation of the rectus abdominis, or “six-pack” muscles, which meet at the midline of your stomach. Diastasis recti is very common during and following pregnancy. This is due to the uterus stretching the muscles in the abdomen to accommodate your growing baby. One study found that up to 60 percent of women may experience diastasis recti during pregnancy or postpartum.
To understand this condition, it will help to break down its name: Diastasis is the Greek word for “separation” and recti refers to large abdominal muscles called the rectus abdominis. These muscles run from the rib cage down the center of the abdomen to the pubic bone. There are two of these muscles on the left side and on the right side. They are responsible for the “six pack” abs. The two sides of the muscles meet in the middle of your abdomen and are held together with a strip of connective tissue called the linea alba.
Diastasis recti is a condition where the linea alba has widened and become weak. As a result, the two sides of the rectus abdominis muscles have moved farther apart and the weight of the internal organs causes the tummy to “pooch” out. This is not a hernia, as the tissue is still intact, but it can essentially function like one in extreme cases.
Although common, the condition isn’t limited to only pregnancy. It can affect anyone, including newborn babies and men. In some cases, it can result from lifting heavy weights incorrectly or performing excessive or unsafe abdominal exercises. Nonetheless, it is most common in women following pregnancy. During the second and third trimester the growing uterus puts increased pressure on the linea alba, stretching it out.
For many women, the condition goes away after pregnancy, but for some the diastasis recti remains. The problem is more likely to occur as a woman ages and has more children, especially if the pregnancies are close together in time.
Am I candidate for Diastasis Recti repair?
Though you might not like the way it looks, diastasis recti is not an inherently dangerous or painful condition. However, the more severe it is, the more the rectus abdominis muscle can be compromised. This muscle plays a large role in protecting the internal organs, supporting posture, and facilitating movement. When it is not working properly, it can cause problems like:
- low back pain,
- difficulty breathing,
- difficulty lifting, sitting, or standing.
What does Diastasis Recti repair entail?
When the condition is mild, it is quite common for women to just chalk it up to pregnancy or age and leave the area untreated. However, when it causes symptoms or its appearance is overly bothersome, the first line of treatment can be physical therapy. The American Physical Therapy Association has a comprehensive guide that explains the problem and their treatment approach in detail.
When this doesn’t work or the problem is too severe to be corrected with exercise, surgery may be the best solution. At this point, one of our board-certified plastic surgeons’ folds over the loosened connective tissue (linea alba) and sutures the two sides of the rectus abdominis muscles back together, into a more normal position. The reason this procedure is linked to plastic surgery is because this procedure is often done as part of a tummy tuck or a mommy makeover.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the number of tummy tucks in the United States has more than doubled since the year 2000. Though fixing a diastasis recti can be a factor, the tummy tuck may or may not also include liposuction and skin removal.
It is not uncommon for women to need more than just a muscle repair to regain a more youthful appearance to their belly. That decision is best made following a consultation with one of our qualified plastic surgeons.
Only an in-person consultation with one of our board-certified plastic surgeons can truly confirm which procedure would best achieve your goals – and for this, there are key variables we assess to formulate an individualized surgical plan.
If you are concerned about the appearance of your abdomen or have questions about diastasis recti, contact our office and schedule a consultation at Synergy Plastic Surgery today!