The Belly Pooch: What Is It, Do I Have It, What Not to Do, and How to Fix It

What I am about to say, will not be a shocker or surprise to anyone. Pregnancy doesn’t do the most flattering things to our bodies.  For me and for most, the thing that seems to linger most is that lovely ‘belly pooch.’ Even though you have worked your tail off at the gym trying to get rid of it, it clings like a leach.  After many attempts to rid the pooch and after having received the “fun” comments from strangers of like “when are you due?” when in fact I am NOT expecting, I had had enough! Time to visit my OBGYN and see what the scoop is.  Come to find, the leftover pooch wasn’t all my fault.  I had Diastasis Recti.

So what is Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis Recti is when your abdominal muscles separate. The large abdominal muscles– your “recti”– spread further apart from left to right creating a gap—“diastasis”— between the muscles.  When this occurs your skin or fat lingering around your belly will pop through the center creating the pooch that gives you that early-on pregnancy looking belly pop.  I know the hallelujah chorus may have just begun for some of you. If you are like me you may be thinking, “Is THIS why I still look pregnant?!” Potentially. However, understand that “belly pooch” is not the only side effect of diastasis recti. The condition can also cause urination leaking, constipation, and lower back pain.  I personally did not have any pain or other side effects from mine. For me, it’s just annoying.  I want my flat stomach back, my balance restored, and my core strength returned. 

How do you know if you have Diastasis Recti?

The simplest way to test yourself for this condition is by laying flat on your back on the floor with your knees bent and spread shoulder width apart. Slightly raise your head off the ground, starting at your belly button, trace your fingers upward by pushing down in between your abdominal muscles to see if there is any gap.  Then do the same with your lower abdominal muscles.  It’s common to determine your diastasis width by how many fingertips you can fit within the gap.  

What NOT to do if you have Diastasis Recti?

Be cautious when exercising so you don’t cause further separation damage.  For example, sit ups or crunches, and lifting heavy weights can do more harm than good when trying to get rid of that baby weight around your tummy.  Talk to your doctor about what you can or cannot do based on your condition.  If your diastasis is severe enough there are stomach wraps that you can wear as a brace for added protection and comfort.  

How to fix it?

First, visit with your OBGYN to share your concerns and get your doctor’s opinion.  A doctor will then refer you to a good Pelvic Therapist for outpatient treatment plans.  These exercises given can be done at home with practice.  The therapist’s goal is to engage and strengthen the thin band of connective tissue repairing the muscles back together for you.  Therapy will take time and if you are wanting results now, there is always the tummy tuck for quicker results.  But it will also cost you a pretty penny.  A plastic surgeon will surgically sew the muscles back together and remove the excess fat and skin around the area.  If the tummy tuck is the solution for you make sure you aren’t planning on getting pregnant again.  

If you are wondering if you have Diastasis Recti and would like to check yourself for the condition, visit this link for a video demonstration on how to do so.  


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