Many mothers may find that their post-pregnancy stomach may go away even after birth.
We’ve heard mothers asking why they still look pregnant and why the bulge does not seem to go down? While it may be a concern for some, these issues typically belong to one, if not two, conditions that have been linked to childbirth: diastasis recti and hernia.
We would like to shed some light on these conditions and the treatment options available to you if you are thinking of seeking medical attention.
What Is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis Recti is a condition that develops when the muscles in the wall of the abdominal area stretch apart. This condition can be caused by pregnancy, rapid weight gain or loss, and repetitive heavy lifting.
It occurs when your core muscles separate from being stretched beyond their limits during pregnancy. During childbirth, a significant amount of pressure is exerted on these muscles, resulting in the separation of the rectus abdominis muscle. Eventually, this may lead to pain and discomfort and a bulge developing, especially during activities like coughing or sneezing.
The good news is that diastasis recti often resolves itself once the muscles are no longer overstretched and your body has had time to heal. However, surgery may be the only option for those who don’t want to wait for these muscles to recover or those whose diastasis recti is more than four finger widths apart.
How Do I Know If I Have Diastasis Recti?
To understand if you have diastasis recti, ask yourself these questions:
1) Do I have a bulge developing in the middle of my abdominal wall?
2) Does it feel tight and uncomfortable around my abdomen?
If you’ve answered yes to either of these questions, you may want to seek further evaluation from our doctor.
How Is Diastasis Recti Treated?
Patience is a virtue in treating diastasis recti. Most cases of diastasis recti will go away on their own as the abdominals rebuild their strength. It is not uncommon for women to notice an improvement in only three months, though it could take up to a year for complete resolution.
Our doctor may suggest the following treatment options, such as physical therapy and exercises to strengthen the muscles in some cases.
Exercises strengthen and tone the abdominal muscles, such as crunches or leg lifts. Many women opt for these exercises because of their non-invasive nature and minimal downtime. However, keep in mind that the effectiveness of these exercises still depends on your effort and motivation.
Medications such as painkillers, muscle relaxants, or local anaesthetics to reduce swelling and pain from diastasis recti may also be prescribed if the pain seems to bother you.
In some cases, surgery may be required to repair the abdominal wall so that diastasis recti will not occur again.
What Is An Umbilical Hernia?
On the other hand, an umbilical hernia is a condition that occurs when an organ or tissue pushes through an opening it wasn’t meant to go through, causing discomfort and pain.
Since umbilical hernias protrude from the belly button, they are often described as looking like a small balloon or bubble. Other umbilical hernias may occur when the umbilical cord is cut at birth, which prevents the abdominal muscle from closing over the weak spot of the umbilical ring.
What Are The Symptoms Of Umbilical Hernia?
Apart from a lump or bulge that appears under the skin in your umbilical region (near the belly button), an umbilical hernia may also display these symptoms: soreness, redness or swelling in the umbilical area. This may feel like a burning or sharp pain near the umbilical region.
Additionally, the presence of a bulge under the skin, which gets bigger or smaller depending on posture and movement, may also be a symptom.
An umbilical hernia may not always cause discomfort depending on the size of the hernia. However, it is important to be observant of signs of growth of the bulge and seek attention if it starts to cause increased pain.
How Can An Umbilical Hernia Be Treated?
Most umbilical hernias are not a cause for worry when they are small. Our doctor may prescribe rest to avoid worsening of the symptoms, and you will be advised to avoid lifting weights or doing actions that could exert pressure on your abdomen.
However, in some cases where the umbilical hernia appears to be large, you may be advised to consider surgery to treat your condition. This will be necessary if the umbilical hernia becomes bothersome and uncomfortable or if it appears to get bigger.
Surgical treatment to repair the hernia is the most effective way to prevent an umbilical hernia from causing complications such as strangulation of the intestine. Strangulation of the intestine can lead to intestinal obstruction and, in turn, cause abdominal cavity infection (peritonitis), which can be fatal.
How Can I Tell The Difference Between Diastasis Recti & An Umbilical Hernia?
As both diastasis recti and umbilical hernia are caused by muscle separation, you may not be able to tell the two apart immediately.
Diastasis Recti is characterised by a gap in the abdominal muscles that starts at the umbilicus or belly button and goes downwards through to the pubic area. The gap becomes more prominent when you raise your head, cough, sneeze, sit up or do any other manoeuvres which exert pressure on your abdomen.
On the other hand, an umbilical hernia is characterised by a small bulge usually located just below or behind the belly button. This bulge can get more prominent depending on your posture and movements, and it does not feel like there is a gap in the abdominal wall.
Diastasis Recti can occur independently, or it can be accompanied by an umbilical hernia. However, umbilical hernia is not related to diastasis recti.
To tell if you may have diastasis recti, here’s a simple method that you can perform a self-test to check for the signs:
With that said, seeking professional advice from a doctor would be the recommended option to take when dealing with both conditions, as you will be able to discuss if immediate treatment is necessary.
While diastasis recti is not a significant cause for concern, hernia, on the other hand, may require treatment before it worsens and leads to a complication.