Diastasis recti is a disorder where there is a separation of the rectus abdominus muscle into separate right and left halves. Normally, the two sides of the muscle are joined in the midline of the body. Pregnancy and weight gain are common causes of this problem. This is primarily considered to be a cosmetic condition, There often is visable bulging, but there is no important physical defect that must be repaired. We are often asked to see patients who have an initial diagnosis of abdominal wall hernias, who in fact have developed a diastasis.
A diastasis recti appears as a ridge running down the midline of the abdomen, often extending from the breast bone to the umbilicus. It becomes more prominent with straining and may disappear when the abdominal muscles are relaxed. The separation and the inside edges of the muscle can be felt during contraction of the rectus abdominis muscle, This can be seen by lifting the head while lying down, and looking toward your feet.
This condition can often be diagnosed during a physical exam and should be differentiated from the bulge of a hernia. Hernias and diastasis can occur at the same time, but are entirely separate problems. In the photo below, this patient has a typical diastasis as well as an umbilical hernia. Corrective surgical procedures are available and are performed by our surgeons, but are infrequently indicated. In extreme cases, diastasis recti can also be corrected by a tummy tuck or abdominoplasty. The following link has more information on diastasis recti, as well as links to exercises that may help.