After giving birth to her son, Calian, Wilma Macdonald expected some short-term aches and pains.
But, as time went on, he started having lower back pain, which was so painful that even getting up from a chair was a great struggle.
Yet when Wilma, then 38, a nutritionist, was referred to an NHS physiotherapist by her GP, she was told it was a routine postpartum effect and she would soon be back to normal.
The pain only increased. In fact, Wilma endured nearly three years of trouble before being diagnosed with diastasis recti (DR), a condition where the left and right sides of the large muscles in the front of the abdomen separate—due to the enlargement of the womb. – during pregnancy and fail to join back together after birth.
After giving birth to her son, Calian, Wilma Macdonald expected some short-term aches and pains. But, as time went on, he started having pain in his lower back which was so painful that even getting up from a chair was a great struggle.
As well as being painful, it has a ‘dangling’ effect on the abdomen which means that some women still look pregnant long after birth – a source of discomfort for many. A 2016 study of 300 women who became pregnant for the first time by Norwegian doctors found that 45 percent still had diastasis recti six months after giving birth, and 32 percent had a problem after 12 months. .
Despite the fact that the problem affects about a third of women during pregnancy, many say they struggle to get a diagnosis, let alone being mindful of the risks when expecting their baby.
Writer and broadcaster Caitlin Moran recently revealed that uncontrolled diastasis recti was the hidden cause of her longtime back pain. Caitlin, who has since had surgery to fix the problem, wrote: ‘Some days just getting out of bed made me cry. I feel 1,000 years old.’
As well as painful back pain – as a result of the abdominal muscles, which should support the back, not working properly – it can lead to constipation, urine leakage and poor posture.
Shirin Irani, a consultant gynecologist in Birmingham, tells SELF that it can also lead to a hernia – where the tissue ruptures, causing the organs to open up – in the bowel and sharp pain. She says: ‘Even if there are no physical symptoms, it can have a huge emotional impact because of the bulge. Many victims are asked if they are pregnant, even if they have an earlier child. It is disturbing.
Dr Aisha Iqbal, a GP in Leicester, suffered DR after the birth of her daughter 11 months ago. She says that detached abdominal muscles should return to normal within eight weeks of delivery, adding: ‘In pregnancy, the growing uterus causes the abdominal muscles to separate to allow the growth of the baby’.
When Wilma, then 38, a nutritionist, was referred to an NHS physiotherapist by her GP, she was told it was a routine postpartum effect and she would soon be back to normal. the pain only got worse
Factors such as weight and fitness – and therefore muscle strength – can affect how severe the diastasis is, as can pregnancy hormones such as estrogen, which relax the abdominal muscles and soften connective tissues.
While there is no standard classification of DR, the most widely accepted definition is a 2.7 cm (about two finger-widths) gap between the long abdominal muscles that run from the ribs to the pubic bone. Suspecting his condition, Dr. Iqbal sought help from a private physiotherapist.
‘There’s a big issue with women not realizing or being educated that diastasis recti is a thing,’ she says. ‘As well as being a GP, I work as a weight loss coach and often meet with women who think it is belly fat that makes them look pregnant. They never believe that it could be weak abdominal muscles.
And what they don’t realize is that weight loss won’t bulge if it’s due to DR.
Ellen Farquharson, a sports physiotherapist in Weymouth, Dorset, who has also experienced DR, says she has often treated women whose condition was overlooked and troubled. ‘I’ve seen countless women who have shoulder problems or pelvic alignment problems because they have DR and aren’t using their muscles properly.
‘No one is investigating this. It is not considered important by some doctors so women are left to deal with it. Yet it has a huge impact on mental health as it makes women feel terrible.
The irony is that the problem is very easy to diagnose – by feeling carefully to see the gap between the abdominal muscles.
For Wilma MacDonald, her 2017 pregnancy was textbook—even though her 7lb boy came only after being in labor for 36 hours. She says: ‘I found no pain relief other than gas and wind.
‘I had my partner, sister and parents all waiting for help. I thought everything was fine.
Still, the new mother who was fit before 5 feet 1 inch soon started feeling nothing right. As her back pain worsened, Wilma, who lives in Edinburgh with her partner Andrew Ness and Calian, 42, lost strength in her core (abdominal) muscles, which stabilize and control the pelvis and spine. Is.
“When I tried to get out of bed there was no tension in my back,” she says. ‘I couldn’t tense my muscles or flex them and if I sat down or leaned a certain way I had a “dome” shape in my stomach.
‘I used to feel a slight ache in my back all the time and had to try to compensate for the way I carried Calyon. I knew I was going to have a baby now, but I expected to feel better after a few months. However, it did not go away.
‘If I was walking I would have back pain after 45 minutes. And it was really hard to get up from a chair because I couldn’t put any pressure on the mid-section, which is the bit you use to do this.
‘Meanwhile, I had some urine leakage, my back was more arched and my posture was really bad so my lower back was sticking out. I would look at myself in the mirror and try to straighten myself but could not do it.