That Bulge Above Your Belly Button Might Not Be a Food Baby, After All

Could you have diastasis recti?

Laura Lifshitz |

Imagine this scenario: You’re a few months post-pregnancy when—bam!—you notice a bulge above your belly button. WTF is going on? Did your baby leave something behind? Nope. You might have something called diastasis recti.

What Is Diastasis Recti, Exactly?

“The condition happens when your abdominal rectus muscles separate and the tissue between the muscles thins,” says Dr. Melissa Walsh, gynae, attending physician in the department of obstetrics, gynaecology, and women’s health at Montefiore Health System. While you may or may not notice a bulge above your belly button, there’s another test for diastasis recti: If you attempt to do a standard sit-up and place your fingers between your abdominal muscles, and feel at least two fingers (or two centimetres) difference between them, you could have this issue. The (sort of) good news is that although diastasis recti can be uncomfortable (sometimes causing lower back pain), it’s more of a cosmetic issue than a medical one.

What Causes This?

Women who’ve popped out a baby are at highest risk, since pregnancy can do quite a number on your abdominal muscles. And some moms are more susceptible to getting diastasis recti than others, says Dr. Lauren F. Streicher, associate clinical professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and author of Sex Rx: Hormones, Health, and Your Best Sex Ever. Women who are obese before and during pregnancy, give birth to a large baby, or deliver multiples are most vulnerable. While there’s no real way to prevent diastasis recti, watching weight gain and exercising during pregnancy doesn’t hurt, says Streicher. Pregnancy isn’t the only cause, though. Obesity, multiple abdominal surgeries, age-related matters, and genetics can all up your chances of developing it, says Walsh.

Can It Be Reversed?

Most experts recommend you lose weight and exercise with the goal of strengthening your core muscles. With these measures, diastasis recti will often go away over time. But if it persists—and bothers you—there are other treatment options. For starters, Dr. Alyssa Dweck, assistant clinical professor of gynaecology and Mount Sinai School of Medicine, advises working with a physical therapist who specialises in strengthening the abdominal walls. If that doesn’t work, the Tupler Technique, a non-surgical repair route to improve or correct diastasis recti, may be an option. This method uses an abdominal splint or binder meant to take pressure off the muscles and repair connective tissues for at least a few months. If everything else fails, surgical procedures are available. Getting an abdominoplasty (a.k.a. a tummy tuck) will bring the muscles back together and eliminate diastasis recti.

Looking for more fitmama advice? Here are six important things you should know if you’re pregnant and exercising.

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