It’s a fact that pregnancy causes many bodily changes – both during and after. And although the birth of a child is a welcome event, post-pregnancy diastasis rectus (muscle separation) is not desirable. The separation of abdominal muscles leads to multiple problems like chronic back pain and a protruding tummy.
Although diastasis recti is a common difficulty after pregnancy, the issue is not a popular talking point; many patients many not understand that their vertical abdominal muscle alignment is to blame for a protruding abdomen that will not flatten, despite healthy exercise. Many patients seeking help to correct their bulging abdomen know little to nothing about the condition until they consult with a plastic surgeon.
Understanding Diastasis Recti?
The abdominal muscles (rectus abdominus) which run parallel from the ribs to the pubic area are held together by a band of tissue known as fascia. During pregnancy, the facia thins and stretches. This allows the muscles to spread and make room for the baby as it grows.
Sometimes, the facia moves back to their original shape months after childbirth. Many times, however, the facia it is too weak and remains lax, like it was during pregnancy. This issue is known as diastasis rectus and can create a protruding belly, sending patients to their medical provides to look for a surgical solution to restore muscle structure.
But it’s not just a cosmetic problem. When the abdominal muscles weaken, there are medical issues as well. Hernia, digestive disorders, stress incontinence, and lower back pain are physical concerns stemming from diastasis recti.
How do I know I have It?
Board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Christopher Livingston can diagnose diastasis recti during a consultation appointment. However, there are signs which may suggest you have the condition:
- The patient retains fullness in the abdomen after one year of giving birth or losing weight
- The individual has a protruding abdomen after reaching their optimal weight with diet and exercise.
- After engaging the abdomen (sitting up), the belly bulge becomes more pronounced
- Patients suffer from chronic pain in the lower back and hip
Can Diastasis Recti Resolve on Its Own?
Yes. This condition is more likely to diminish over time if the patient had minimal weight gain during pregnancy or if the pregnancy was their first. But if the individual has regained healthy weight, it’s been more than a year since childbirth, and the stomach still appears full and protruding, medical help may be necessary.
How does a Tummy Tuck Help?
Abdominoplasty is designed to tighten and add support to the abdominal wall. Dr. Livingston places permanent sutures to reconnect the facia and repair the diastasis recti to achieve a flatter, firmer tummy contour. This surgery often resolves secondary issues like incontinence and back pain.
Although some surgeons offer laparoscopic surgery to repair only the diastasis recti, Dr. Livingston recommends a full tummy tuck because:
- Most patients with diastasis recti also have excess skin, which is removed with a tummy tuck
- Closing diastasis rectus decreases the abdominal circumference, which can increase the amount of loose skin. A tummy tuck will not only repair the muscle but remove the excess skin.
- Board-certified plastic surgeons are trained and qualified to consider the aesthetic benefits as well as reconstructive improvement. These results include reshaping the belly button for a natural belly contour. Also, a careful incision placement to ensure a discreet scar easy to conceal.
Can You Fix Diastasis Recti with Exercise?
Although some exercise can effectively improve a mild diastasis, others like planks and crunches can pull abdominal muscles apart. Going the exercise route should include a reputable physical therapist. When the diastasis become too severe, a tummy tuck is the best option.
For more information about a tummy tuck and diastasis recti, contact Dr. Livingston today