After pregnancy, some women may find that their rectus abdominal muscles are no longer located next to each other. This can make some women feel as if they appear to still look pregnant, when in fact, they are not. After pregnancy, this will normally recover in time. However, if the muscles do not repair to a person’s satisfaction, surgery is often a necessary solution.
Which exercises are best for diastasis recti?
Exercises which are designed to target your abdominal muscles can help in mild cases of abdominal separation. These include many types of Pilates exercises, such as pelvic tilts and bridges. It is important to seek medical advice before targeting your abdominal muscles, as certain exercises may cause more harm. An experienced personal trainer or physiotherapist will be able to advise you appropriately. In most cases, abdominal separation, which is wider than 2 cm, is more likely to require a tummy tuck for effective correction. Women can achieve their pre-pregnancy body with a flat stomach after abdominoplasty surgery.
RELATED: Exercise after tummy tuck – top tips
Should I have surgery?
Before you decide to undergo a rectus abdominal repair operation, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself. These are:
- Have you tried exercise? If you’ve got diastasis recti, exercise can often be a common way to help improve. Try exercises that focus on the core, such as pelvic tilts, abdominal compressions, heel slides and single-leg stretches. However, care has to be taken to ensure you don’t make the condition worse, which could happen with exercises such as crunches and planks. While exercise helps some people with diastasis recti, it is not foolproof and is not guaranteed to help everyone. Because the abdominal muscles have been so stretched, in some instances, exercise will achieve no results. If this is the case for you, surgery may be necessary.
- Are you planning on having more children? Another pregnancy will damage your abdominal muscles, and you will lose any results from the surgery. Before considering this surgery, make sure you are certain you are not planning on becoming pregnant again.
- Have you lost weight? During the rectus diastasis repair, surgeons will cut away any loose skin. If you are planning on undergoing any weight loss, try and do so prior to the surgery.
This procedure is not just for women who have been pregnant – men can need rectus diastasis repair too. Men will be able to notice they have a midline bulge between the xiphoid and umbilicus. This can also be exacerbated by improper exercise or lifting techniques
Rectus Diastasis Repair Procedure
The procedure to repair diastasis recti is fairly invasive. What the surgery involves will vary from patient to patient, depending on the state of their diastasis recti.
RELATED: What is Diastasis Recti Repair?
In some cases, the surgery involves an abdominoplasty, which is more commonly known as the tummy tuck. This involves an incision being made at the bikini or pubic hairline and then lifting the skin to the level of the xiphoid. Any muscles will be tightened during this process. If necessary, any loose skin will also be removed.
This process will vary on an individual basis. Some people will only require their muscles to be tightened. However, others may need more work done. If necessary, some patients may require a full tummy tuck, which involves the belly button being relocated to a new position on the abdomen.
Recovery after diastasis recti repair
As rectus diastasis repair is such a large procedure, it is understandable that it needs a significant recovery time. Depending on how invasive your surgery was, you may require an overnight stay at a hospital. You will have limited mobility for the first two weeks post-op. You will not be able to do any heavy lifting or core exercise for at least six weeks – so it is important for patients with children to factor this in. If you are going to have to frequently lift the child, make sure another adult will be able to do the heavy lifting for you, or alternatively, wait until the child is slightly older before undergoing surgery.
It will take a longer timeframe for swelling to subside and for you to notice scars flattening and fading. This can often take from six months to one year.
While the surgery is invasive and involves a long recovery period, it is a very attractive option for those who are experiencing abdominal or hernia pain as a result of the diastasis recti, or whose self-esteem is suffering and who wish to undergo a cosmetic procedure.
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