What is it?

Diastasis recti is the separation of the rectus abdominis muscles during and after pregnancy. The rectus abdominis runs vertically along the front of the stomach. It's divided into left and right sides by a band of tissue called the linea alba that runs down the middle. As the uterus expands during pregnancy, the abdominals are stretched and the linea alba thins and pulls apart. This band of tissue gets wider as it's pushed outward.
Once a person deliver the baby, the linea alba can heal and come back together. It's highly elastic and retracts backs. When the tissue loses its elasticity from being overstretched, the gap in the abdominals will not close as much as it should. This is diastasis recti.

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Signs & symptoms

Common signs of diastasis recti during the postpartum period are:
* A visible bulge or "pooch" that protrudes just above or below the belly button.
* Softness or jelly-like feeling around your belly button.
* Coning or doming when you contract your ab muscles.
* Difficulty lifting objects, walking or performing everyday tasks.
* Pain during sex.
* Pelvic or hip pain.
* Low back pain.
* Poor posture.
* Urine leaking when you sneeze or cough.
* Constipation.
* Feeling weak in your abdominals.


The doctor will evaluate if diastasis is present, where it's located and how severe it is. Diastasis recti can occur above the belly button, below the belly button and at the belly button.
The doctor will use the hands and fingers to feel the abdominal area for gaps and muscle tone. Some providers may use ultrasound, measuring tape or a tool called a caliper for a more accurate measurement. This exam typically occurs at your postpartum appointment before being cleared for exercise.
An abdominal gap wider than 2 centimeters is considered diastasis recti. Diastasis recti is also measured in finger widths, for example, two or three fingers' separation.
The doctor may recommend movements for diastasis recti or they may refer you to a specialist for additional treatment.


To treat diastasis recti, a person need to perform gentle movements that engage the abdominal muscles. Before starting an exercise program, be sure it's safe for diastasis recti. Work with a fitness professional or physical therapist who has experience with diastasis recti. They can create a treatment plan to make sure you are performing the movements correctly and progressing to more challenging movements at the right time.
Certain movements will make abdominal separation worse. During the postpartum period, there are some modifications you should make:
Avoid lifting anything heavier than the baby.
Roll onto your side when getting out of bed or sitting up. Use your arms to push yourself up.
Skip activities and movements that push your abdominals outward (like crunches and sit-ups).
Some people use binding devices (elastic belly bands) to help hold their belly in and support the lower back. Wearing binders can't heal diastasis recti and will not strengthen your core muscles. It can be a good reminder of your diastasis recti and promote good posture.

Surgery is rarely performed to fix diastasis recti. Healthcare providers will recommend physical therapy or at-home exercises to help heal diastasis before surgical methods. Surgery is performed in cases of hernia (when an organ pushes through the linea alba) or if a woman wants diastasis recti surgery (a tummy tuck).

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

Learn more about our editorial process for content accuracy.

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