Beyond Baby Fat: All About Diastasis Recti

By Emmy Owens

 Image: iStock

Image: iStock

From popular websites to celebrity gossip, America loves baby bumps. But as mothers everywhere know, the beloved bump loses much of its charm after baby is born. While the natural post-pregnancy healing process reduces much of the weight accumulated during term, many women notice an annoying ridge of abdominal tissue that doesn't seem to budge. Indeed, not even the strictest crash diet will reduce this bump — because it's made of muscle, not fat. The condition is called diastasis recti, and it's a relatively common "side effect" of pregnancy.

The pressure and weight created by a gestating baby can actually push the abdominal muscles to their breaking point. This causes the muscles of the abdomen to physically separate from each other. ("Diastasis" is medical-speak for "separation," and "recti" refers to the abdominal muscles.) Although diastasis recti isn't painful, it can be unsightly and annoying at best. Here, learn a little more about this common condition as well as the remedies that really work.

 Image: iStock

Image: iStock

It's Not Just for Moms

Diastasis recti is most often associated with pregnancy, but mothers are far from the only people who can be affected. The condition is also common in newborns (for them, the problem typically heals itself) and can occur in men after certain types of injuries, such as those related to weight lifting. Unlike babies, adults with diastasis recti don't heal on their own, so even if you're not pregnant, it's important to avoid putting excessive strain on your abdominal muscles. Use caution when trying out a new machine at the gym, and lift from your knees if you need to pick up something heavy.

You Can't Exercise It Away

The Internet provides no shortage of home remedies for diastasis recti (not to mention virtually any other condition under the sun), but you should always consult with a physician first. Although certain exercises can strengthen your abdomen and prevent the condition from getting worse, it's important to only attempt them under a doctor's care. Doing the wrong exercises (or the right exercises the wrong way) can make the condition worse.

It's Not Dangerous...

Generally speaking, diastasis recti isn't dangerous, and it's perfectly acceptable to choose to leave it untreated. However, in some instances, the separated abdominal muscles can contribute to a tear in the abdominal wall, called a hernia. Although rare, abdominal organs can escape through this tear, leading to severe pain and other complications. Hernias do not heal on their own, and surgery — usually an outpatient, laparoscopic procedure — is the only way to alleviate the condition.

... But Surgery Can Help

Surgery is also the only sure-fire way to heal diastasis recti in adults — and the preferred technique may surprise you. Surgeons recommend abdominoplasty, better known as a "tummy tuck," to remedy diastasis recti. According to the tummy tuck page on the website of of St. Louis Cosmetic Surgery, during the procedure, a surgeon repairs and tightens abdominal muscles in addition to removing excessive deposits of skin and fat. By taking care not to overexert yourself after surgery, the therapeutic results of a tummy tuck should be permanent.

About the Author: Emmy Owens is a health & beauty blogger who loves everything related to looking your best! She is a mother and wife who loves staying fit by chasing her young children. With age, she is not opposed to a cosmetic enhancement here or there, but the specifics remain in the vault.

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