Diastasis Rectus Abdominis: Symptoms & Treatment

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Instructor
Kirstyn Wade

Kirstyn is a registered nurse and has a master's degree in Nursing Education. She has taught college Nursing courses.

Expert Contributor
Christianlly Cena

Christianlly has taught college physics and facilitated laboratory courses. He has a master's degree in Physics and is pursuing his doctorate study.

Diastasis rectus abdominis, or diastasis recti, is a common condition affecting the abdominal muscle. It generally occurs in women during and after pregnancy. In this lesson, you will learn about the symptoms and treatment of diastasis rectus abdominis. Updated: 02/25/2021

Abdominal Bump

Kate gave birth to her fourth child three months ago. Since then, she has had a noticeable bulge in the center of her stomach, particularly when she tenses her abdominal muscles or coughs. She has also been feeling more lower back pain when trying to lift and carry her children. She is concerned about this bump on her stomach and decides to consult her physician to learn more.

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  • 0:04 Abdominal Bump
  • 0:25 Diastasis Rectus Abdominus
  • 1:31 Symptoms
  • 1:51 Treatment
  • 2:16 Lesson Summary
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Diastasis Rectus Abdominis

Her doctor explains to her that there are two large muscle bands that run vertically down the front of a person's abdomen, called the rectus abdominis. During pregnancy, the growing uterus can often cause these muscles to stretch and separate in the center. Kate finds out she has diastasis rectus abdominis, also called diastasis recti.

Illustration of the rectus abdominis muscles that extend vertically down the abdomen.
Abdominal Muscles

Typically, diastasis recti develop later during a woman's pregnancy, and the muscles can remain separated for up to one year after giving birth. Some women may always have a slight separation in their abdominal wall after pregnancy.

Diastasis recti does not only develop in pregnant women. It can also occur in premature infants and men who have experienced excessive weight gain causing the muscles to separate. However, this lesson focuses primarily on diastasis recti in pregnant and postpartum women.

Doctors generally agree that there is no real way to determine who might develop diastasis recti. However, there are certain conditions that might make individuals more likely to develop it. These include pregnant women over the age of 35, women who are pregnant with multiple babies, women who have given birth previously, or babies who have high birth weights.

Symptoms

Symptoms of diastasis recti include:

  • Bump or ridge extending down the middle of the abdomen
  • Extra skin or tissue noticed in the front of the abdominal wall
  • Lower back pain
  • Pelvic floor problems, such as urine leakage
  • Constipation
  • Hernia: when abdominal tissue or another organ pushes through the hole in the abdominal wall.

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Additional Activities

Diastasis Rectus Abdominis: A Case Study

In this activity, you'll check your knowledge regarding the symptoms and treatment of diastasis rectus abdominis.

Directions

For this activity, print or copy this page on a blank piece of paper. Then, carefully read the given scenario and provide a written response to the questions that follow.

Case

Jesse is 36 weeks pregnant with her second child. To prepare for her pregnancy, she spent most of her time doing clinical pilates exercises. Jesse had found it useful in maintaining strength and muscle control of the pelvic region, which she learned from her previous pregnancy. Unfortunately, she gave birth too early, right before she got to the 37th week. Her baby had complications, including abdominal ridge, constipation, and urine leakage. Upon physical examination, the attending physician found out that the bloated abdomen was due to an extra tissue, which pushes the hole in the abdominal wall.

Questions

  1. What are the most striking clinical findings for Jesse's newborn?
  2. Does the baby have diastasis recti? Why do you say so?
  3. Enumerate the individuals that are susceptible to diastasis recti.
  4. From the physical exam result, is it true that the baby also has a hernia? Prove your answer.
  5. What type of medical treatment must be administered to the patient?


Sample Answers

  1. The complications due to being born prematurely, such as an abdominal ridge, constipation, and urine leakage, are the most striking clinical findings.
  2. Yes. The symptoms exhibited by the newborn are all indications of diastasis recti.
  3. Invididuals susceptible to diastasis recti are pregnant women over the age of 35, pregnant women with multiple babies, women who have just given birth, and babies born with complications.
  4. Yes. The baby had tissue pushing through the hole in the abdominal wall, which is indicative of a hernia.
  5. For cases involving a hernia, physicians usually recommend surgery to fix the abdominal wall opening.


Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for your information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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