Abdominal Separation- Why It Happens 

Abdominal separation, also known as diastasis recti, is the separation of the right and left lower abdominal muscles. It causes the belly to stick out creating what is referred to as a “postpartum pooch”. Abdominal separation happens to about two-thirds of pregnant women. now, this may sound terrifying, but the good news is that it’s preventable and treatable. 

What Causes Abdominal Separation

The pressure that pregnancy places on the abdomen cause the front muscles to lose their shape. It is more common for a woman who has more than one baby (close in age) to have this condition. Other reasons might get a postpartum pooch are:-

  • If you are over 35 when pregnant
  • If you’re carrying twins
  • If your baby is heavy

Signs and Symptoms

  • Back pain
  • Constipation
  • Urine leaking
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Difficulty moving around
  • Hernia – this might happen when the tissue tears and causes the organs to poke out of the opening
  • Exercise

Can Abdominal Separation Be Prevented During Pregnancy?

Abdominal separation is preventable. You, however, need to be careful how you carry yourself for it to work. It’s advisable to avoid lifting heavy weights, including your older children, while pregnant. This way, you’ll not strain your connective tissues. Avoid any exercises that isolate the abdominal muscles such as pushups, sit-ups, and crunches. Swimming and some yoga poses (such as downward dog) can easily cause a strain. It is important to get a go-ahead from your doctor before taking up any form of exercises while pregnant. 

Can Abdominal Separation Be Corrected?

Abdominal separation can be fixed before and during pregnancy. In order to fix it, you first have to have it and to know you have it, you need to lie flat on your back with your knees bent. Raise your upper body slightly as if you’re about to do a crunch. Then place two of your fingers on your belly button. If they sink in then you have an abdominal separation. Your belly should otherwise be firm. 

To fix it:-

  • Do pelvic floor or kegel exercises
  • Do the right exercises to strengthen your core. Read about exercises after pregnancy here.
  • Mind your posture to reduce pressure on your abdomen (always sit upright)

the good news is that the muscle opening shrinks over time following birth. The bad news is that some women report having diastasis recti a year later. Remember to ask your doctor as many questions as possible because there are many Do’s and Don’ts when trying to fix an abdominal separation. 

Where to seek help

you can seek help and more information on  Abdominal Separation from the following places:

  • Metafit Kenya by Karen Varma, a pre/post natal specialist- Lower Kabete
  • Yoga Fitness by Shugu Maraga- Karen, Nairobi
  • Acacia Studio by Sheila Otieno- Westlands, Nairobi


#Please note that development differs from one child to another.

#Content intended for educational purposes only, and should not be substituted for medical advice from your doctor.

Last reviewed January 2019

Sources: clairemockridge, wellnessmama, thepelvicexpert, hypnobirthingkenya

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