This is sometimes known a “mommy belly”. It is a condition where the muscle at the front of the tummy separates.It is more common after multiple births and repeated pregnancies.There is also increased risk in mothers over 35 years of age and in those with large babies.
It can be seen when the patient does a partial sit up- a bulge appears in the mid line usually from the belly button upwards. It is quite normal for this to develop in the later part of pregnancy.
If it does develop it is important to avoid excessive strain on the abdominal muscles as this may worsen the problem. Full sit ups and heavy lifting should be avoided. To get out of bed the patient needs to roll onto their side and push up with the arms. Avoid sit ups from lying until the abdominals have regained sufficient strength.
If this does not resolve spontaneously 8 weeks after pregnancy a physiotherapy consultation should be sought. There are specific graded abdominal exercises that can be prescribed which will cure the problem in most cases.
Good abdominal function is very important for a healthy back. It should be noted that it will take 3-6 months of exercise under the direction of a chartered physiotherapist to regain good abdominal muscle strength.
Pelvic floor dyfunction appears to be related to diastasis rectus. Most patients with diastasis rectus have weakened pelvic floor muscles. At Swords physio we would assess pelvic floor function if appropriate. If weakness is detected in the pelvic floor muscles exercises will be prescribed to improve strength.
Leaving the condition untreated leaves the patient at risk of developing back pain and also abdominal hernia.
In severe cases or those that do not improve with physiotherapy a surgical consultation will be advised. An abdominoplasty is the name of the surgical procedure to repair the muscles and fascia.