The little-known postpartum side effect that you need to know and deal with.
The effects of DRAM or Abdominal Muscle Separation when left untreated may be serious and we aim to make as many women aware of these as we can.
Also known as abdominal separation it is commonly defined as a gap of roughly 2.7cm or greater between the two sides of the rectus abdominis muscle. Commonly referred to as "jelly belly" or "mummy tummy" the condition can hurt a lot more than just your ego. It occurs when the abdominal wall muscles and their connective tissue attachments stretch. This is the result of the combination of abdominal weakness, hormonal changes, weight gain and abdominal wall stretch exerted by your growing baby.
Women are more susceptible to developing diastasis recti when they have a child with a high birth weight and have multiple pregnancies, have strained or lifted heavy weights during pregnancy, had excessive outer abdominal exercises after the first trimester of pregnancy1or even pre pregnancy.
53% of women suffer from Diastasis Rectus Abdominus Muscle (DRAM) separation postpartum and 36% of those remain abnormally wide after 5-7 weeks.2
"As a result, DRAM can have a number of implications for pre- and post-natal women. It can affect the stability of the trunk and may contribute to pelvic floor dysfunction, back and pelvic pain and hernias. This may be a factor in persistent post-natal lumbar, pubic symphysis and sacroiliac joint pain and even incontinence due to the interaction of the pelvic floor and abdominal musculature as a stabilising unit" said Shira Kramer, Physiotherapist and founder of Be Active Physio and the Restore Your Core Program.
Incontinence is a term that describes any accidental or involuntary loss of urine from the bladder (urinary incontinence) or bowel motion, faeces or wind from the bowel (faecal or bowel incontinence).4Incontinence is a widespread condition that ranges in severity from 'just a small leak' to complete loss of bladder or bowel control. In fact, over 4.8 million Australians have bladder or bowel control problems for a variety of reasons. Incontinence can be treated and managed. In many cases it can also be cured.4
Incontinence is widespread and the incidence is frightening with over 50% of women aged 45-59 years of age experienced some degree of mild, moderate or severe urinary incontinence5.
As uncomfortable as it is, talking about it now, as much as we may think "it won’t happen to me" or simply "I’m not going to worry about this now", being informed is our best bet at prevention and or management. Where should you start? If you have DRAM, it needs to be treated as a priority. The economic cost to our society and to the health and wellbeing of individuals suffering with symptoms of DRAM is simply too great.6
The connection between DRAM and Lumbopelvic pain and dysfunction is now well researched3and women need to talk about it, as it’s only then they can understand it and treat it with their health providers.
In one study researchers looked at 200 women with diastasis recti. They found the prevalence of incontinence was 45.5%. They found a significant difference in quality of life in the presence of low back pain and urinary incontinence. Also, of statistical significance was the relationship between the number of deliveries and the interectus distance.7
In January 2014 researchers found that 83.33% of the study participants had DRAM and they concluded that women with DRAM tend to have a higher degree of lumbopelvic pain.8
Diastasis recti abdominis (DRA) in the urogynaecological patient was investigated in 2007. The researchers looked at the prevalence of DRA in the urogynaecological population, the differences in characteristics with and without DRA and if the relationship of DRA to support-related pelvic floor dysfunction (SPFD) diagnoses. They found that 52% of the research population had DRA. They also found that the women with DRA were older and had a greater number of pregnancies and births. This group in contrast to the women without DRA also had weaker pelvic floor muscles. Finally, 66% of all the women with DRA had at least one SPFD diagnosis. A relationship was found between the presence of DRA and the SPFD diagnosis of stress urinary incontinence, faecal incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.9
1 Harms, M.D., Roger W. "Why do abdominal muscles sometimes separate during pregnancy?".
2Spitznagel T, Leong F, Van Dillen L, Int. Urogyn J. 2007 Vol 18(3):321-328
5 Millard, 1998: The prevalence of urinary incontinence in Australia, Australian and New Zealand Continence Journal
7 Prevalence, potential risk factors and sequela of diastasis recti abdominus. Gitta S, Magyar Z, Tardi P,
Fuge I, Jaromi M, Acs P, Füge I4, Járomi M1, Ács P1, March 2017
8 Correlation between Diastasis Rectus Abdominis and Lumbopelvic Pain and Dysfunction. Khushboo D,
Amrit K, Mahesh M.2014
9Prevalence of diastasis recti abdominis in a urogynecological patient population. Spitznagle TM1, Leong FC, Van Dillen LR.
10 Antonio I Cuesta-Vargas Cátedra de Fisioterapia, Universidad de Málaga, Andalucía, Spain. June 2017. In lab. testing SRC Recovery Shorts No. 8.0615.87.4707.