Diastasis Recti: What Is It?

If your abdomen has suffered excessive stretching, be it due to obesity or pregnancy, the rectus abdominis may have been injured. If that's the case, it's very important that you know what diastasis recti is.
Diastasis Recti: What Is It?

Last update: 02 November, 2018

If you have a bulge in your abdominal area, it may be a case of diastasis recti. It’s important that you give it the attention it deserves because this isn’t just an aesthetic issue.

It’s an anatomical condition produced by the weakening of the linea alba, where both sides of the rectus abdominis have a separation in the center.

The rectus abdominis are a pair of long, flat muscles located vertically on each side of the abdomen. Since they’re the most external muscle, they have the function of keeping the body upright and facilitating torso flexion. They also support the internal organs.

On the other hand, the linea alba is formed by connective tissues and allows us to carry out movements. During pregnancy, in which the baby grows up to 35 centimeters, the rectus abdominus come to separate completely in some cases and cause diastasis.

The origin of diastasis in the rectus abdominis may be due to:

  • Congenital factors.
  • A weakness of the structures due to aging or excess weight, which leads to the third reason.
  • Increase in weight and volume produced by pregnancy.

Another cause could be the excess of “relaxin” – a hormone that inhibits collagen generation. This latter reason is actually the most frequent one of all since, according to statistics, 35% of pregnant women suffer from diastasis recti.

diastasis recti

How can you know when you have diastasis recti?

There are several methods you can use, such as an ultrasound or a calliper, which is a body fat meter. Another simpler way is to feel the area directly without an instrument.

If you don’t know how to do it by yourself, we’ll teach you how: lie on your back, place your fingers on the midline of your body – more specifically, below and above your belly button.

Then, raise your head as if you were doing crunches. If you happen to have diastasis recti, a hole under your fingers will appear, pushing the visceral content.

Consequences of diastasis recti

This problem goes beyond aesthetics. The separation of the muscles of the rectus abdominis causes the contents of the abdominal cavity to come forward in the form of a bulge, giving a false impression of pregnancy.

When the due force isn’t exercised in the abdomen, the lumbar area, the back, and the pelvic area are affected, which can lead to injuries and pain.

This separation can lead to digestive problems, prolapses, loss of urine, and the appearance of stomach hernias.

Treatment for diastasis recti

If you suspect that you might be suffering from diastasis recti, the first thing you should do is see your doctor for an evaluation.

Once you have your diagnosis, make sure you follow the instructions your doctor gave you and remove every unhealthy habit you have from your life.

It requires surgery when the fibers of the linea alba have ripped and it’s necessary for a specialist to close them. Otherwise, the person may start to suffer from an abdominal hernia.

Physiotherapy is the best treatment for rehabilitation when the fibers of the linea alba aren’t ripped. A great exercise that the person can perform is abdominal hypopressive activities, which is where abdominal pressure is generated.

Other great exercises to perform are isometric abdominals, push-ups, breathing exercises, and the tupler method (rhythmic and transverse contractions).

woman exercising


If a period of 3-6 months has passed and the muscles haven’t rejoined naturally, keep in mind the following recommendations:

  • See your doctor to confirm the diagnosis and indicate the treatment.
  • See a physiotherapist for techniques such as electrotherapy.
  • Don’t try to recover your figure by exercising because that could make the situation even worse.
  • While you’re in the recovery process, avoid lifting weights or making too much effort.
  • Follow a healthy, protein-based diet with proper hydration.

It’s never too late to get your old abdomen back. Remember that things will be impossible only if you believe they are. Take control of the situation and work towards your goal.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Boissonnault, J. S., & Blaschak, M. J. (1988). Incidence of diastasis recti abdominis during the childbearing year. Physical Therapy. https://doi.org/10.1093/ptj/68.7.1082
  • Khandale, S. R., & Hande, D. (2016). Effects of Abdominal Exercises on Reduction of Diastasis Recti in Postnatal. International Journal of Health Sciences and Research.
  • Sperstad, J. B., Tennfjord, M. K., Hilde, G., Ellström-Engh, M., & Bø, K. (2016). Diastasis recti abdominis during pregnancy and 12 months after childbirth: Prevalence, risk factors and report of lumbopelvic pain. British Journal of Sports Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2016-096065

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.