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2018 | 32 | 3 | 27-35

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Exercises for pregnant and postpartum women with diastasis recti abdominis – literature review


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Introduction Diastasis recti abdominis is a pathological condition at the linea alba in which rectus abdominis muscles separate. It occurs mainly in pregnant and postpartum women. Changes in the linea alba area are caused by stress to the tissue and pregnancy induced hormonal changes which lead to the loosening of abdominal connective tissue. This pathological condition is not manifested with any pain symptoms but the effects which may develop as a result of diastasis recti abdominis may cause pain. This literature review study discusses the non-surgical methods of treating diastasis recti abdominis by reducing the distance between the two parts of the rectus abdominis muscle. Material and methods Scientific literature on physiotherapy, surgical treatment and diagnostics of diastasis recti abdominis in pregnant and postpartum women from the last 15 years was analysed. Such databases as Google Scholar, PubMed, ScienceDirect, Ebsco and MedLine were used in the analysis and 11 publications were considered. Results Having analysed the available literature, it was concluded that abdominal exercises can prevent or reduce diastasis recti abdominis. However, the analysis did not reveal which method of treatment was the most effective. Conclusions This review of the literature revealed that there is not currently a gold standard method of treating diastasis recti abdominis. However, abdominal exercises during pregnancy reduce the risk of this condition postpartum. Diastasis recti abdominis may be reduced even a few years after childbirth by implementing appropriate treatment including a special training programme focusing on strengthening anterior abdominal wall and learning to maintain a proper body posture during activities of daily living.








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  • Marshall A. Diastasis Recti: An Overview. 2015 Sep [cited 2016 Nov 29] Available from; https://bootcampmilitaryftnessinstitute.com/injury/diastasis-recti-an-overview/.
  • Mota P, Pascoal A, Carita A, Bø K. Prevalence and risk factors of diastasis recti abdominis from late pregnancy to 6 months postpartum, and relationship with lumbo-pelvic pain. Man Ther. 2015 Feb;20(1):200-5.
  • Sperstad J, Tennfjord M, Hilde G. Diastasis recti abdominis during pregnancy and 12 months after childbirth: prevalence, risk factors and report of lumbopelvic pain. Br J Sports Med 2016 Jun 20;50:1092-6.
  • Emanuelsson P. Alternatives in the treatment of abdominal rectus muscle diastasis. An evaluation. Department of clinical science, intervention and technology, Karolinska Institutet, Sztokholm, [Internet]. 2014 Nov 28[cited Mar 15 2017]; p. 12-50 Available from: https://openarchive.ki.se/xmlui/handle/10616/42245
  • Bellido Luque J, Bellido Luque A, Valdivia J, Suarez Grau JM, Gomez Menchero J, Gracia Moreno J et al. Totally endoscopic surgery on diastasis recti associated with midline hernias. The advantages of a minimally invasive approach. Prospective cohort study. Hernia 2015;19(3):493-501.
  • Benjamin DR, Van de Water ATM, Peiris CL. Efects of exercise on diastasis of the rectus abdominis muscle in the antenatal and postnatal periods: a systematic review. Physiotherapy 2014 Mar;100(1):1-8.
  • Sancho MF, Pascoal AG, Mota P, Bo K. Abdominal exercises afect inter-rectus distance in postpartum women: a 2D ultrasound study. Physiotherapy 2015 Sep;101(3): 286-91
  • Mota P, Pascoal AG, Carita AI, Bo K. The Immediate Efects on Inter-rectus Distance of Abdominal Crunch and Drawing-in Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2015 Oct;45(10):781-8
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  • Hsia M, Jones S. Natural resolution of rectus abdominis diastasis. Two single studies. Australian J Phys 2000;46:301-7.
  • Gilleard WL, Brown JM. Structure and function of the abdominal muscles in primigravid subjects during pregnancy and the immediate postbirth period. Phys Ther 1996 Jul;76(7):750-62.
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  • Acharry N, Krishnan Kutty R. Abdominal exercise with bracing. A therapeutic efcacy in reducing diastasis-recti among postpartal females. Int J Physiother Res 2015;3(2):999-05.
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  • Sharma G. Postnatal Exercise Can Reverse Diastasis Recti. Obstet Gynecol 2014 May;123(5):171.
  • Rajkowska N, Szumilewicz A. Prenatalne ćwiczenia mięśni brzucha w świadomości kobiet ciężarnych i młodych matek. Rocznik Naukowy, AWFiS Gadańsk 2014;24:89-94.
  • Keeler J, Albrecht M, Eberhardt L. Horn L, Donnelly C, Lowe D. Diastasis Recti Abdominis: A Survey of Women’s Health Specialists for Current Physical Therapy Clinical Practice for Postpartum Women. J Womens Health Phys Ther 2012;26(3): 131-42.
  • Bø K, Hilde G, Tennfjord M, Sperstad J, Ellstrom Engh M. Diastasis Recti Abdominis and Pelvic Floor Muscle Function. A cross sectional study of primiparous women during pregnancy and postpartum. WCPT Congress 2015/Physiother 2015; Volume 101, Suppl 1:eS26–eS426.

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