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Diastasis Recti Postpartum: What Causes Your Abdomen to Separate?

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated Mar 27, 2023

Diastasis Recti Postpartum: What Causes Your Abdomen to Separate?

The long list of things to consider doesn’t stop after giving birth; it is actually the beginning of everything. On top of feeding and taking care of their newborn, most mothers struggle with how their bodies change after pregnancy. For the most part, their bellies tend to stick out for a  while, and that’s okay. But some mothers go through conditions like diastasis recti postpartum. What causes it to happen? What do you need to know about it? And what can you do if you have it? 

What Is Diastasis Recti Postpartum?

Diastasis recti, or diastasis of rectus abdominis muscle (DRAM), refers to the separation that takes place in the abdominal muscles (the rectus abdominis) during and after childbirth. It cuts the abdominal part into two large parallel bands down the center of the stomach area

This may cause a bulge or pooch to stick out in the middle of the abdomen, which is why other people call this the “mommy tummy,” or “mommy pooch.” Some may simply take it for its common name — abdominal separation.  

It is likely for this condition to occur as a result of pregnancy. You may observe that your abdominal muscles show signs of weakness when you try to move from a lying-down position to an upright position (such as sitting-up). Moreover, you may also experience difficulty and  lower back pain when you lift objects or during daily activities.

What Are the Common Causes of Diastasis Recti Postpartum?

The common causes of this condition include the following:

  • Age of mother during pregnancy
  • Carrying a large baby (big and growing womb)
  • Multiple births (second, third or fourth pregnancy)
  • Weight gain during pregnancy
  • Lifting heavy weights (specifically in the last trimester)

While these are the most common causes of diastasis recti, the condition can also occur to those who have weak muscles even with no birthing experience. During pregnancy, the release of natural hormones like estrogen and progesterone helps soften the fibrous connective tissue that joins the stomach muscles down the center (linea alba).

What Are the Signs and Symptoms?

Some of the known signs and symptoms of abdominal separation are as follows:

  • Noticeable gap between two muscles
  • Bulge or pooch in the midriff
  • Lower back pains
  • Bloating and constipation 
  • How Do You Check if You Have Diastasis Recti Postpartum?

    Once you’ve given birth, you may try this simple method, known as the finger-width method, in order to determine the extent of the separation:

    1. Lie on your back, with knees and legs bent and feet flat on the floor.
    2. Raise your shoulders slightly off the floor and look directly at your stomach.
    3. Pinch in between sides of the muscles above and below your abdominal button with the tips of your fingers. Try to fit as many fingers as you can into the space between your muscles. 
    4. The separation can be characterized when there is a distance between the rectus abdominis muscles bigger than 2 finger-widths (2cm) on palpation.

    Check this frequently to see if the gap is shrinking. Also, do consult your physician if you suspect you have diastasis recti. Your doctor may refer you to a physiotherapist for conservative (non-surgical) therapy of diastasis recti postpartum.

    Key Takeaways

    Diastasis recti happens most common to pregnant women. The width of separation may vary depending on the mother’s expanding womb, which pushes the muscles apart, making them longer but at the same time weaker. 

    Certain workouts can help you restore some abdominal strength after childbirth. A physical therapist can assist you in determining which workouts are appropriate for you.

    If diastasis recti postpartum muscular weakness is interfering with your regular activities, your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure to heal the muscle separation.

    Learn more about Postpartum care here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Jezreel Esguerra, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated Mar 27, 2023

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