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Diastasis Recti Abdominis in Pregnancy and Postpartum Period. Risk Factors, Functional Implications and Resolution

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Diastasis recti abdominis (DRA) or the increased inter rectus distance (IRD) is described as the separation of the rectus abdominis muscles. It can occur during pregnancy and after childbirth.

Mota et al. (2015) found DRA may affect up 100% of pregnant women [1], and it may persist separated in the immediate postpartum period in 35% to 60% of women [2]. Reported prevalence of DRA or increased IRD varies and may be inaccurate due to different cut off points for the diagnosis [1-7] and use of different measurement methods.

To date limited studies about the normal width of the IRD in postpartum women are available [8, 9], and there is scarce information about risk factors for DRA.

There are some theories stating that failure to treat DRA effectively can lead to long term sequelae [10], including abnormal posture [1], lumbo-pelvic pain and cosmetic imperfections [10]. Postnatal women are stimulated to resume abdominal exercises shortly after delivery [3] to improve trunk function and restore abdominal figure and fitness [8]. To date there is scant knowledge on the most effective abdominal exercises both during pregnancy and after childbirth. In particular there is little evidence on which exercises are most efficient in the narrowing of the recti diastasis. The aim of this article is to critically review the literature on the risk factors, functional implications and the effect of exercise on DRA. This information is expected to be relevant for physiotherapists and exercise professionals.
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Keywords: Abdominal exercise; inter-rectus distance; physiotherapy; postpartum; pregnancy; ultrasound

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2015

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  • Current Women's Health Reviews publishes frontier reviews on all the latest advances on obstetrics and gynecology. The journal's aim is to publish the highest quality review articles dedicated to research in the field. The journal is essential reading for all clinicians and researchers in the fields of obstetrics and gynecology.
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