Can you have diastasis recti after a C-section?
After reading this post, you’ll learn the answer to this question and more!
Specifically, you’ll lean:
- What happens to your muscles during a cesarean delivery
- How to tell if you have diastasis recti
- What kind of ab workouts and exercises you should do, and which ones you should avoid
- and more
Alright, let’s get started.
Although I am a doctor, I am not your doctor. This information is for informational purposes only and should not substitute the advice from your healthcare professional. All kinds of exercise and dietary changes are potentially dangerous, and those who do not seek counsel from the appropriate health care authority assume the liability of any injury which may occur. Please read my full Disclaimer for more information. Also, this post may contain affiliate links: meaning I may receive a commission if you use them.
Ok, moving on.
Can You Have Diastasic Recti After A C-Section?
Yes, you can have diastasis recti after a c-section. Diastasis recti happens when the rectus abdominis muscles are stretched and separated along the midline.
Unfortunately, pregnancy is a known risk factor for developing diastasis – regardless of the type of delivery you had.
In fact, one study found that 100% of women had some degree of separation by 36 weeks of gestation.
When you have a C-section, your muscles are usually stretched apart even more than normal.
Let me explain why.
What happens to your abs During and after a c-section?
Believe it or not, your ab muscles aren’t usually cut during a c-section. They are simply separated along the midline in order to access the uterus.
There is no other way to get your baby out without separating them.
After the baby is delivered and your uterus is sutured closed, some surgeons will then place a stitch in the muscles to put them back together.
Research has shown that stitching the muscles back together isn’t necessary. And oftentimes – it’s actually not possible!
Depending on your anatomy, the muscles might be so far apart, that putting a stitch will only cause the stitches to tear through and cause your muscles to tear.
The good news is – the majority of these abdominal separations will heal on their own.
That same study saw that only 35% of women still had diastasis 6 months postpartum.
Can A C-Section Cause Muscle Damage?
As I mentioned before, the abdominal muscles will be separated during a C-section in order to get to the uterus.
This generally doesn’t cause any long term issues or damage.
However, in some situations, the rectus muscles have to be cut if there isn’t enough room to get your baby out. The good news is, muscle heals really well.
If your muscles do get cut, the surgeon will stitch that part back together.
The fascia (which is the connective tissue above the muscle) will then be re-approximated to close off your abdominal wall.
If the fascia is not sutured correctly, an abdominal hernia can develop which can worsen your diastasis recti.
How long does it take for stomach muscles to heal after A C-section?
The absolute minimum time frame for you to heal from a C-section is 6 weeks.
Some women might take longer. Anywhere from 6-12 weeks is a good estimate.
Just make sure to listen to your body and never do anything that causes discomfort.
Your healthcare team should be able to provide you with personalized instructions.
How do I know if i have diastasis recti After My C-Section?
There is one simple movement you can do to tell if you have diastasis recti after a C-section (or a vaginal delivery).
This is a picture of how to do it:
Lie in a supine position with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
Gently flex your upper back and use your fingers to check and see if there is a separation.
Depending on how many fingers you need to use will determine how wide the separation is.
You will want to check for separation in three different locations.
I have an entire post on How to tell if you have diastasis recti with a lot more information.
Can I do ab workouts after A C-section?
You can do ab workouts after a c-section, but not right away. It is important to let your insides heal following the surgery.
When you see your doctor for your 6 week postpartum visit, he/she will evaluate if your are ready to begin exercise.
However, there are plenty of other things you can do before that visit.
Specifically, you can do:
- Pelvic floor exercises (kegels) to strengthen critical muscles that become weak during pregnancy
- Transverse abdominis breathing exercises to start training your abs from a safe position
- And walking (which is by far the best exercise in the whole world)
Take all three of these things very very seriously. They will help the recovery process significantly.
Is There Any Chance I Could fix Diastasis Recti naturally?
Believe it or not, diastasis recti can heal on its own. In some circumstances, there isn’t anything special you need to do. As I mentioned before, that one study saw that over 60% of the women no longer had diastasis at the 6-month mark.
That’s because the muscles will naturally come together as the uterus shrinks back down to its normal size.
If 12 weeks have passed and you still notice a significant abdominal separation, then you will need to follow a diastasis recti program.
Even if you don’t have abdominal wall separation, I recommend that you begin training your core muscles after pregnancy for several reasons:
- Core strength is the basis of total body strength
- A strong core can help prevent low back pain (which is common postpartum)
- Proper core training can improve your posture
When can I start a Diastasis Recti program after A C-section?
In general, I recommend that you start a diastasis recti program 6-8 weeks postpartum. This will give your body enough time to heal and allow your provider to evaluate you.
With that said, you can begin doing some type of activity within a day or so after your delivery!
See above for some ideas.
Otherwise, once you are ready – you can check out my diastasis recti program.
In it, I go over 100 different core exercises you can do for diastasis recti after a C-section, along with a 6 week exercise program.
What About Other Exercise- When Is The Right Time For Exercise After A C-Section?
So when can you do other types of exercise after your surgery? In general, you need to wait the full 6 weeks before attempting any type of resistance exercise such as weights or pilates.
Keep in mind that this is the minimum time frame. You might need longer than 6 weeks of postpartum recovery.
If you have diastasis recti, I recommend that you focus on healing that first. If you jump into other types of exercise, you might make your abdominal separation worse.
Otherwise, you can check out my simple post C-section workout plan here.
Will I Ever Get A Flat Stomach After A C-Section?
It is totally possible to get a flat stomach after a C-section.
With that said, it isn’t easy. This isn’t something that happens over the course of 2-3 weeks. If you truly want to get a flat stomach, you need to be diligent about three things.
- Decreasing the number of calories you eat per day.
- Improving your lean muscle mass percentage through strength training.
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle in terms of nutrient intake and physical activity.
All of this is easier said than done.
Your success will depend on your pre-pregnancy body fat levels, your current body fat levels, and your consistency.
But I have distilled everything you can do in my post – 17 Simple Ways To Lose Weight After A C-Section.
Other Related Questions
Will Massage Help Heal My C-Section Pooch?
I don’t think there is any scientific evidence showing that massage will help improve a C-section pooch. With that said, massage is known to increase blood flow to a particular area, which is always a good thing,
It probably wont help, but it probably wont hurt either.
Can Nutrition Help Fix My C-Section Pooch?
Improving your nutrition is always a good idea when it comes to fat loss and exercise. If you are planning to start a diastasis recti program after a C-section, you will need to ensure that:
- you are drinking enough water to stay hydrated
- you are consuming enough protein for muscle synthesis
- you are getting adequate vitamins and minerals via fruit and vegetable intake
All of these things will help you lose fat, which in turn helps with strengthening your core muscles and potentially losing your pooch.
Check out The Postpartum Trainer’s Nutrition Guide to get detailed information on getting rid of your belly without starving yourself or affecting your milk supply.
Can Belly Binding Help With Recovery After A C-Section?
Belly binders are helpful in the immediate postpartum period, as they can assist with walking.
Walking and mobilization is extremely important for recovery – so if it helps you do that, then go for it!
However, I don’t recommend that you use belly bands longterm. There is no evidence that they help flatten your belly and they can weaken your core muscles if you rely on it too much.
How Do I Know If I Need A Tummy Tuck After My C-section?
A tummy tuck (aka an abdominoplasty) is a surgery where sutures are placed along your fascia to help tighten all of your internal structures.
This will fix diastasis recti and improve the appearance of excessively loose skin.
If you have been doing everything you can to improve your diastasis and your loose skin; i.e
- following a properly balanced diet with key nutrients (check out Loose Skin After Pregnancy for more details),
- and following a diastasis recti program
for at least 12 weeks, and haven’t seen any results – only then should you consider a tummy tuck.
Keep in mind, this is a major surgery, and all surgeries have their risks and benefits. Make sure to do your research before making this decision.
Any Tips On How To Get Rid Of A Hanging Belly After A C-Section?
Yes, I have an entire post on how to get rid of a hanging belly postpartum.
Unfortunately, you may not be able to get rid of it completely – but the methods I share may help you see some progress!
Final Words On How to Safely Strengthen Your Core After a C-Section
Alright beautiful momma. I hope you learned something new.
To recap, wait until your body has healed and then assess if you still have a significant abdominal separation and loose skin.
If so, try conservative treatments for 12 weeks. You have nothing to lose, but a lot of health benefits to gain!
Now I want to hear from you.
Did you develop diastasis recti following your C-section?
What have you tried?
Comment below and let me know!
Related Posts On Diastasis Recti And Abs
- How To Tell If You Have Diastasis Recti & What To Do About It
- How to Prevent Diastasis Recti
- How To Get Rid of Your Mommy Pooch
- Safe Diastasis Recti Exercise Program for New Moms
Get Four Free Workouts To Help Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor & Heal Your Mommy Tummy!
Brittany N Robles, MD, MPH, CPT
Brittany Robles is a full-time OBGYN, a NASM certified personal trainer, and health & fitness, expert. She holds a Masters of Public Health degree in maternal health with a special interest in exercise and nutrition. She is also the co-author of The White Coat Trainer. Learn more about her here.
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