This condition can happen even if the birth is natural, but it is made worse by c-sections because the abdominal muscles are weaker due to the surgical injury.
Diastasis recti is usually pain-free, but it does have one frustrating symptom: It causes belly pooch. The complicating factor here is that typically one would do sit-ups or crunches to help flatten the tummy, but when the connective tissue is stretched, the abdominal muscles will buff up … and out.
There is one easy way to tell if you have this condition. Lie on your back, lift up your head and look at your belly. If you can gently sink a finger or two between your abdominal muscles above your belly button, then the connective tissue is stretched and your abs have moved apart.
Exercise is still the key to fixing this problem, but you will need to modify your routine. One thing you can do is head lifts (instead of full crunches or sit ups) while pulling your belly in toward your spine. Also, walking or jogging can help tighten up the core. Pilates is a great toning exercise that helps tighten the core without bulking the belly up or out. Yoga is great for this, too.
The important thing to remember is not to push yourself too hard right after your baby is born. Walking is great, stretching and light weights are great, but do not try to return to pre-pregnancy intensity right away. If you feel a ripping or sharp burning sensation in your abdomen when doing toning exercises, back off. That is your connective tissue telling you to give it a break. It will bounce back, given time and exercise.
Nutrition is important, too. You need to keep taking your vitamins (particularly vitamins C and E), drinking lots of water, and feeding your muscles lean protein and plenty of vegetables. Your body can not rebuild if it does not have the building blocks.
Oh, and chiropractic adjustments do help with this condition.
Keeping the spine and back strong is just as important as keeping the abs strong. Core strength means front and back.
Dr. Meghan Palmer is a chiropractor and freelance writer in Rutledge, Tenn.