Pregnancy and childbirth can be a wonderful, life-changing experience, but it can also result in a whole array of body changes that may be less welcome. As your body transforms to accommodate the growing baby, the rectus abdominis muscles separate and, for many women, it results in a weakening of the abdominal wall.
Diastasis recti is defined as a separate of the rectus abdominis muscles in the midline, also known as the linea alba, and it’s thought that over 60% of women experience this in the final stage of pregnancy.
However, for some women this issue does not resolve itself in the postpartum period. As well as an aesthetic impact – a stomach bulge that is resistant to diet and exercise – it can also result in the significant health concerns such as lower back pain, incontinence and even digestive problems.
Also known as Rectus diastasis and Rectus divarication, the gap along the midline of the belly can be small or extend along the whole length of the abdomen. As well as removing excess skin, an abdominoplasty or tummy tuck can also restore the integrity of the rectus abdominis.
Problems caused by Diastasis recti
- Stomach protrusion: this is the most common symptom of Diastasis recti. The linea alba, the fibrous structure down the midline of the abdomen, which maintains the position of the abdominal muscles can becomes stretched and thin and some women can have a pronounced stomach bulge.
- Thickened waist: the abdominal muscles act as an internal corset and, as they weaken and separate, a wider waistline can result.
- Hernia: as the linea alba stretches, it becomes thinner and an epigastric hernia can form. They are usually small and typically only preperitoneal fat will protrude but any hernia should be investigated by a specialist.
- Lower back pain and impaired posture: the rectus abdominis muscle is an essential component in the core muscles that maintain balance and posture. As they weaken, more stress is put on your back muscles which must contract disproportionately, and women can often suffer from chronic lower back pain.
- Incontinence: stretched abdominal muscles combined with a weak pelvic floor post-pregnancy can result in urinary incontinence. According to a 2018 study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), diastasis recti repair performed as part of a tummy tuck can significantly reduce incontinence.
What is Diastasis recti surgery?
Unfortunately, however many crunches and planks you do, stretched abdominal muscles usually remain resistant to exercise. The most effective and permanent solutions to diastasis recti is surgery to close the defect and tighten up the two sides of the rectus abdominis muscle.
As well as strengthening the abdominal wall, Mr Juling Ong will also remove any excess skin and fat. The belly button is also repositioned if required. Timing is essential for the best outcome, so it is advisable to wait until a year since your last pregnancy and plan surgery for when you’re not planning on conceiving again.
Call 020 7927 6528 to arrange a consultation with Mr Juling Ong to discuss your options.