Split Tummy Muscles After Pregnancy – Do you have Diastasis Recti?

Split Tummy Muscles After Pregnancy – Do you have Diastasis Recti?

Bulging Tummy or Split Tummy Muscles?  Medicare help for Diastasis Recti

If you still have a belly pouch after following the right diet and exercise, you might have wondered: is it just belly fat or something else? If your belly still doesn’t look quite right after pregnancy, it CAN take some time for your body to return to its new shape. It’s hard to imagine the impact that pregnancy, breastfeeding, and childbirth does to your body. Even though the internet makes us think that every celeb and influencer immediately bounces back to their pre-pregnancy bodies, it is far from reality. Many women will suffer from excess stretched skin and split tummy muscles known as diastasis recti after pregnancy.

If you have ended up with torn or stretched abdominal muscles during pregnancy and childbirth, they can’t always be fixed with conventional lifestyle changes, exercise and physiotherapy. Plastic Surgery like an Abdominoplasty may help.


NEW 30175 Medicare Item Number helps mothers with Diastasis Recti

UPDATE – The Australian Government has a NEW Medicare Item Number for a Tummy Tuck for some eligible post-pregnancy patients with 3cm+ Diastasis Recti (Split Tummy Muscles) if you are eligible and meet the new medical criteria. This new 30175 Medicare Item Number is effective from 1st July 2022. Read the 30175 Medicare Item Number factsheet.

Dr Jeremy Hunt is a Specialist Plastic Surgeon with cosmetic clinics in Sydney and Wollongong NSW. He has performed hundreds of tummy tuck procedures in over 20 years of practice.

If you qualify for the 30175 Medicare item number you may also get a subsidy from your Health Fund. There will still be a significant out-of-pocket GAP as Private Tummy tuck surgery is NOT FREE. Dr Jeremy Hunt does NOT perform FREE Tummy Tuck Surgery and it is rarely available in the Australian Public Hospital System.

Guide to Tummy Tuck/ Abdominoplasty

Tummy Tuck


What Causes a Bulging Tummy after Childbirth?

Well, it could be the fat you gained during childbirth, but the lack of firmness could also be caused by distended abdominal muscles. Sometimes, diet and exercise aren’t the answer to a sculpted tummy and a surgical intervention is needed. The choice of an ideal treatment/ lifestyle to get rid of belly fat is based on multiple factors such as:

  • Your overall lifestyle
  • Your genes and body structure
  • Amount of weight gained or lost
  • The elasticity of your skin
  • The size of the baby
  • How many times have you been pregnant?

The most common cause of a bulging tummy post-childbirth is distended or stretched muscles during pregnancy. If you have more than one child or have given birth to a large baby, the chances of you getting diastasis recti multiplies. However, it can happen to anyone.

Diastasis Recti – What is It?

Well, Diastasis Recti refers to the gap between the two separate sides of your rectus abdominis muscles or your abs. More commonly used terms for this condition are split abs, abdominal separation, and torn abdominals.

Diastasis recti can cause post tummy bulges that refuse to go away with diet and exercise. In some cases, the exercises designed to fix diastasis recti might help. While in other cases, patients might need to undergo a tummy tuck – abdominoplasty surgery to repair damage caused to their muscles.

Causes of Distended Abdominal Muscles and Solutions

Torn abdominal muscles can be due to many reasons. The most common ones are pregnancy and childbirth. While you are pregnant, your uterus is constantly growing which causes your abdominal muscles to stretch out. Similar to your skin, your muscles can also become overstretched. Skin stretching results in stretch marks and muscle stretching results in split abs.

Excessive stretching of the abdominal area during pregnancy results in the breakdown of two panels of abs which leaves a bulge in the place of separation.

Diastasis Recti Split Tummy Muscles

The great news is that torn abs or diastasis recti can be fixed. The choice of treatment depends on how much your muscles have split. In minor cases, it can be fixed with supervised exercise and care. If your muscles have split to a point that there is an actual gap, followed by a persistent post-baby belly bulge, it requires surgical intervention in the form of an abdominoplasty.  The new Medicare Item Number requires a gap of 3cm or more.

Symptoms of Diastasis Recti

Most women will not know that they are dealing with diastasis recti until they are a few months post-partum. You will have the condition during pregnancy but it is hard to detect due to stretched abdomen. Common signs to look out for during the post-partum period are:

  • Visible bulge or pooch that protrudes above/below the belly button
  • Soft, jelly-like feeling around the belly
  • Coning/doming during the contraction of ab muscles
  • Trouble lifting heavy objects, walking and performing day to day tasks.
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Pelvic pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Poor posture
  • Compromised bladder control
  • Constipation
  • The feeling of weakness in the abdominals

Factors associated with Development of Diastasis Recti

Let’s explore a few risk factors that increase your risk of developing diastasis recti:

  • Multiple, back-to-back pregnancies
  • Being older than 35 years
  • Having multiples such as twins, and triplets
  • Giving birth to a big baby
  • Having a petite frame
  • Vaginal birth

Prevention of Diastasis Recti

It is normal and expected to have some level of abdominal separation during pregnancy. If you want to lower your risk of getting diastasis recti, here are a few tips :

  • Staying within the healthy and recommended weight gain trajectory during pregnancy might prevent a lot of health issues including diastasis recti. Make sure to eat a healthy diet coupled with a bit of activity to ensure your weight gain stays within the recommended range.
  • Make sure to maintain a proper posture and practice deep breathing exercises while pregnant. Deep breaths allow your ribs to expand along with your belly.
  • Stay clear of exercises that put pressure on your abdominals once you are out of the first trimester and during the post-partum phase.
  • Avoid lifting heavy weights. Sometimes daily activities such as lifting up your children or grocery bags can put immense strain on your abdominals and cause splitting of muscles.
  • Roll – Don’t Jump – While pregnant, do not jump out of bed. Instead, practice rolling out of the bed using your arms to carry your weight while you get up.

What is Difference Between Torn Abs and Something Else?

First things first, you need to learn that torn abdominal muscles are very common. A medical study done on the subject shows that an overwhelming 98% of women have torn muscles once they give birth to a child.

If you suspect that you have diastasis recti, you can check it yourself at home. It is very simple. If you can fit around 2 to 3 fingers in between your ab muscles, you are most likely suffering from torn abdominal muscles. If you are concerned with your at-home test results and are looking for a professional opinion, schedule a medical consultation and get an MRI or Ultrasound.  You can either make an appointment with a specialist plastic surgeon or ask your GP to make a referral.

Exercises for Diastasis Recti – Do They Help?

For certain patients, special exercises designed to treat diastasis recti can help. However, if they aren’t performed properly, they can make your condition worse. You can find a number of excellent post-partum workout videos on the internet but always check in with your GP or Physiotherapist before attempting one. Below mentioned are a few of the popular exercises used to treat the condition (they will not work for all women. In some cases, surgery is the only option to reverse the condition):

1. Transverse Abdominis Activation

Lay on your back and bend your knees. Draw your belly button in towards the spine. Contract your abdominal muscles and hold this position for 3 seconds. Repeat it 10 times and complete three sets. Perform twice a day to see the difference.

2. Brace Heel Slides

Lay on your back and bent your knees. Perform the abdominis contraction as described in the first exercise. Hold this position and slowly slide your heel forward on the bed and gently slide it back. Use your stomach to prevent your spine from moving. When it becomes easy and pain-free for you, move on to the next exercise. Repeat this exercise 10 times a day and complete 3 sets. Repeat twice a day.

3. Brace Marching

Lay on your back and keep your knees bent. Perform the transverse abdominis contraction. Slowly raise one foot a few inches above the ground and put it back downwards. Perform the same exercise on your other leg. Make sure that you aren’t moving your spine. When the exercise becomes easy, move on to the next workout. You need to repeat this work out 10 times a day and complete 3 sets. Repeat twice a day.

4. Brace Single Knee Extension

Lay on your back with your knees bent and perform the transverse abdominis. Straighten out one knee and keep your leg off the ground. Hold this position as indicated and return the leg to its original state. Repeat on the other leg while keeping your stomach muscles contracted. Repeat this workout 10 times a day and complete 3 sets. Doing this workout once a day is more than enough.

Things to Avoid if You Have Split Abdominal Muscles

You need to avoid certain exercises that will put pressure on your abdominal muscles like crunches.

In fact, you should also avoid planks, sit-ups, and other forms of workout that increase abdominal pressure.

This is the exact opposite of what you want. It is best to do significant research regarding post-partum workouts. Ask your doctor in detail regarding all the things you need to avoid post-surgery and all the care measures.

How to Correct Diastasis Recti with Full Abdominoplasty Surgery – Tummy Tuck with Muscle Repair

2071_tummy tuck_dr jeremy hunt

If you are dealing with split abdominal muscles, the only long-term solution is full abdominoplasty which involves abdominal muscle repair.

The custom tummy tuck – abdominoplasty procedures often include complete diastasis recti repair, complete navel repositioning, reduction of excess skin, and body fat removal using a combination of liposuction and surgical techniques.

What Happens If I Don’t Get Treated for Diastasis Recti?

If you have a lingering abdominal bulge that is linked with Diastasis Recti, and it doesn’t bother you, that’s perfectly alright. Make sure that you get the condition checked. Regardless of the cosmetic appearance, diastasis recti can lead to other problems such as pain, complications in women’s health and sexual issues later in life. Some of the possible complications include:

1. Core Weakness

Your ab muscles are an important part of your core. They help to support the entire lumbopelvic region and promote mobility. It is important to remember that our body is as strong as the weakest link. If you have weak abdominal muscles, your organs may not get the support they need. It will often lead to lower back pain, incontinence and other conditions mentioned below.

2. Women’s Health and Sexual Problems

UTI and other pelvic floor problems such as pelvic organ prolapse, and painful intercourse are health conditions that lead to pain and discomfort. These can have a negative impact on your intimate relationships.

3. Cosmetic Appearance

Getting treatment for diastasis recti can fix the physical concerns and completely transform your physical appearance.

We understand how important it is for women to feel normal after childbirth. While some women are eager to get back to their exercise routine, it is important to take a bit of guidance from your healthcare provider in this regard. Certain exercises can do more harm than good and can create complications for you.

Further Reading about Tummy Tuck/ Abdominoplasty Surgery

Medical References about Abdominoplasty Recovery and Complications

About Dr Jeremy Hunt – Specialist Plastic Surgeon Sydney

dr jeremy hunt

Dr Jeremy Hunt is a specialist plastic surgeon performing breastbodyface and nose surgery. He is a member of FRACS & ASPS and has over 20 years of experience providing plastic surgery in Sydney.

Careful, considerate and honest, Dr Jeremy Hunt works with you to find a solution that is optimal for your body and your lifestyle. Every patient is unique and, through his guidance, can achieve good results.

Dr Hunt’s personal, one-on-one service and attention to detail has given thousands of women and men from the Sydney & Wollongong NSW area and across Australia the aesthetic results they desire.

Dr Hunt’s qualifications and education

Dr Jeremy A Hunt MBBS FRACS graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine degree from Sydney University in 1990 and is a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and member of ASPS – the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons. He completed a Fellowship at the prestigious University of Texas in the United States, where he learnt from some of the world’s very best plastic surgeons.

Next Step – Make an Enquiry or Request a consultation with Dr Hunt

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