The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Diastasis of Recti (separation of stomach muscles)

Approximately two thirds of pregnant women experience separation of their stomach muscles during pregnancy. If you have a separation of your stomach muscles it is important you are referred to our pelvic health physiotherapy team for specialist assessment and treatment.

It is thought that up to one third of women have a separation of the abdominal muscles at 12 months after giving birth. It is important to seek treatment from a pelvic health physiotherapist as it may not improve naturally.

The front panel of the muscles is in two halves, joined at a centre seam. This is called your Rectus Abdominal muscle. During pregnancy this seam may separate (like a zip under pressure). It is normal to have a small gap between your stomach muscles after pregnancy. However in some women the muscles stretch further than average and can leave a larger gap.

diastasis recti

If this has happened to you, you may have noticed your stomach bulging to a peak when you sit up e.g. getting out of the bath or out of bed. You may also notice a visible brown line down the centre of your stomach or that your belly button is now protruding.

Your midwife or physiotherapist will measure how wide the gap is between your muscles. A specialist exercise programme will then be prescribed by your physiotherapist.  

If you strengthen your abdominal muscles with physiotherapy this may reduce the risk of:

  • Back pain and other back injuries
  • Hernia
  • Protruding abdomen
  • Poor abdominal support in future pregnancies