Diastasis Recti – Split Tummy Muscles After Pregnancy

Diastasis Recti Surgery to Strengthen Abdominal Muscles After Pregnancy

Are you disappointed with your bulging tummy and wondering, “Why Do I Still Have a Baby Belly After Giving Birth?” – Maybe you have a condition called Diastasis Recti.

If you have been struggling to get a firm tummy for years after giving birth, or if you have tried everything from gym to diets, but your belly is still bulging out, there is a chance you have diastasis recti. Poor posture and back pain are often associated with this condition. Diastasis Recti is more than just fat accumulated around your belly area.

Dr Mark Gittos is a specialist plastic surgeon and a body contouring expert helping patients from all over the country and abroad to achieve their aesthetic goals.

Download Dr Gittos’ guide to Tummy Tuck Surgery in NZ

Guide Tummy Tuck

During pregnancy, your body changes a lot. Although some new mums regain their pre-pregnancy bodies within weeks of giving birth, it doesn’t happen that way for most mums. You may find it difficult to return to your pre-pregnancy shape.

What Is Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis Recti is the separation of the abdominal muscles due to the increased stress and tension on the abdominal muscles as the baby grows inside your uterus. It occurs when the right and left sides of the rectus abdominis muscle (at the front of your tummy) separate as your belly expands, like “a zipper that’s undone” and don’t fully come back together after giving birth.

Diastasis Recti is relatively common with 1 in 2 women experiencing diastasis recti postpartum. However, you might be at a higher risk for developing diastasis recti if:

  • You are older than 35 years old when pregnant
  • You had multiple pregnancies
  • You gave birth to heavy babies or twins
  • You have poor muscle tone
diastasis recti surgery

Diastasis Recti Symptoms

The most noticeable symptom of diastasis recti is a belly bulge that doesn’t go away 8 weeks after childbirth. Other symptoms include:

  • Bulging belly
  • Outie belly button
  • Low back pain
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Constipation
  • Loose belly skin with rashes and infections in the folds
  • Difficulty lifting objects

Exercise and nutrition can help improve your post-baby bulging tummy depending on a number of factors, including:

  • Genetics and family history
  • Body frame
  • Lifestyle
  • Skin elasticity
  • Weight you have gained or lost
  • Size of the baby or babies you delivered
  • How many times you have given birth

Keep in mind that your body changes a lot during pregnancy, so you will need to allow an adequate period of time for your body to adjust post-pregnancy this can take from several months, up to a year or two.

However, if you have tried eating healthy meals and exercising for a considerable amount of time but you didn’t notice any improvements and your diastasis recti has not recovered, you may consider the surgical treatment options.

Diastasis Recti Diagnosis

The best way to confirm that would be getting a professional medical evaluation by your GP or gynecologist who can give you better advice.

Yet, you might consider trying the self-assessment techniques.

Here are the most visible signs that show you have torn abdominal muscles as a result of pregnancy:

  • A visible gap (more than 2 finger-widths) in the middle of your abdomen
  • The gap is most noticeable when you contract your abdomen
  • Bulge or ridge that runs down the middle of your abdomen

Also, you can perform a simple self-test for diastasis recti at-home.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor
  • Raise your shoulders up off the floor slightly, supporting your head with one hand, and look down at your belly
  • Move your other hand all along your midline abdominal muscles above and below your belly button

If you feel a gap, or you can fit 2-3 fingers in between your abdominal muscles, you likely have diastasis recti.

Exercises to Fix Diastasis Recti

Exercises might help support Diastasis Recti repair. However, if your muscles are split to the extent where they have formed a large gap (larger than 2cm ) and a persistent post-baby bulging tummy, this will often require surgery by a qualified Plastic Surgeon.

Certain Pilates moves and some abdominal exercises, such as compressions, pelvic tilts, toe taps, bridges, etc. may help separated muscles. It is important to keep your abdomen pulled in, rather than pushed out while exercising.

Be careful! wrong exercises can actually cause your abdominal muscles to spread even farther apart.

It is advisable that exercises would be performed under the supervision of a physio or fitness trainer.

Keep in mind that exercises might help with tightening the belly to some extent, but exercises alone cannot reattach torn abdominal muscles. Hence, exercising alone might not help you get back the flat tummy you used to have before getting pregnant.

Moreover, the post-pregnancy hormonal changes and increased Body Mass Index (BMI), will probably cause an uneven body fat distribution making your belly bulge look worse.

Activities to Avoid If You Have Torn Tummy Muscles

Certain activities can increase the gap between your split abdominal muscles and make the problem worse, such as:

  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Leaning forward when pushing a stroller as the leaning/pushing motion creates pressure on the abdomen that can widen the gap between your abdominal muscles
  • Yoga moves that increase pressure within the abdomen or push your belly button out and cause the stomach to dome
  • Certain exercises, such as; crunches, situps, push-ups, etc.

Surgical Correction of Diastasis Recti

If you have a large abdominal separation and it hasn’t improved with exercises or physical therapy, then a complete Tummy Tuck or a full Abdominoplasty with abdominal muscle repair might be the solution.

The surgery should be performed by a Specialist Plastic Surgeons who routinely performs Mummy Makeovers and Tummy Tuck Surgery.

For mild cases that only need the muscle tightened, the procedure can be performed through a small incision at the level of the bikini line.

Women with a large amount of excess skin might need an extended tummy tuck (abdominal corrective surgery) procedure. During this procedure, Dr Gittos strengthens weak abdominal muscles with sutures, repositions the navel and eliminates the excess skin.

The surgery will help you get rid of excess skin and the tummy “bulge”. In case some excess fat needs to be removed for better body contours, a tummy tuck can be combined with liposuction.

Further Reading about Tummy Tuck Procedures

Medical References about Diastasis Recti

About Dr Mark Gittos FRACS (Plast) – New Zealand Plastic Surgeon 

Practice locations in Herne Bay Auckland, Northland and Bay of Plenty – Kerikeri, Whangarei, New Plymouth & Tauranga

Dr Mark Gittos is a leading Specialist Plastic Surgeon and operates a practice in Herne Bay, Auckland and in the UK. The practice focuses on both surgical and non-surgical procedures, each designed to help restore, improve or change a physical characteristic or problem. The first step in every case is to talk through your personal requirements and explore all the options, before deciding on the most effective solution.

Dr Mark Gittos offers high quality, natural-looking cosmetic surgery results and is highly experienced in BreastBody and Face Surgery having performed over 4000 Surgeries in the last 26 years.  With worldwide expertise Dr Gittos is an expert in breast, face and body surgery for men & women. 

Naturally, before any treatment is begun, we will explain clearly the advantages and risk factors; so that you have the information you need to make an informed decision that is best for you. Visit the practice to find out more.


Please NOTE: Dr Gittos only performs surgery on non-smoker patients with a BMI less than 30. To check your BMI please visit the NZ Heart Foundation website. For help giving up smoking before surgery visit the Smoke Free website

Do your Research

What to Bring to your Plastic Surgeon Consultation

  • Bring a friend or relative to help discuss the information and your choices
  • Take lots of notes and read the documents provided thoroughly
  • Dress in simple clothes as you may need to undress for examination
  • Bring your medical referral and any relevant medical documents or test results

Book your Initial Surgery Consultation

  • A Referral from your GP or specialist is helpful but NOT essential – you can have a consultation without a GP Referral
  • Email us or Call on 09 529 5352 to arrange your surgeon consultation appointment.
  • Book a consultation with Dr Gittos by paying the Consultation Fee – $350 incl GST

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Please contact us to arrange to book a consultation with our Specialist Plastic Surgeon or to speak with our Patient Care Advisor.

Send an enquiry form today or phone  09 529 5352  during Clinic Hours