Diastasis Recti Symptoms in Simple Terms

Diastasis recti symptoms are departures from the normal way that you look, feel, or function. These symptoms let you know that something is different with your postpartum belly. They do NOT confirm for you that you have a diastasis. Instead, they indicate it might be worth investigating.

If you want to know for sure if you have one, a pelvic floor physical therapist is the professional best suited to answer this question. In the meantime, you can also do a quick test to check yourself at home. Or, you may be interested in learning more about what diastasis recti is.

What it looks like

Since diastasis recti is a condition that affects the abdominal muscles, it’s pretty clear that you’ll see it in your belly. On the other hand, it rarely affects the abs alone. In fact, it can affect and be affected by parts of the body from head to toe. This is why recovery from a diastasis can get complicated.

But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look at the abdomen.

Diastasis recti symptoms in the abdomen

Because the causes behind a diastasis can vary from woman to woman, what a diastasis looks like will also vary. For some, a coning or doming of the belly might be visible when exerting effort. For others, the abdomen may resemble a bread loaf-like shape when sitting up from a reclined position. For still others, there’s a visible gap, or dent, at midline, usually around the belly button. And for lots of women, the appearance of the belly varies depending on the activity she’s doing.

L: coning or doming; R: bread loaf-like shape

Then, there’s the mother, who still looks several months pregnant when her baby is a year or more. Or maybe, she still stands with that pregnant posture, where her belly pushes forward and the curve in her back increases. Although a diastasis doesn’t CAUSE this, the same thing is behind the protruding belly, the postural changes, and the diastasis. And this “thing,” the factor that does cause it, is a misfiring of her deepest core muscles. This misfiring leads to inadequate tension in then linea alba and thus, all of the above.

Pregnant posture when not pregnant

And finally, a diastasis recti can be a factor in belly buttons that were once “inies,” went out during pregnancy, and never returned to their former “inie” status. Over time, due to the thinning of the soft tissue at midline, a diastasis may also increase the risk of umbilical hernia (when the intestines or fatty tissue poke through that thinned tissue).

What it feels like

At this point, you have a pretty good handle on what diastasis recti might look like. Now, let’s consider what it feels like. Lots of cases of diastasis recti are accompanied by low back pain. The abdominal muscles help to stabilize and support the spine, so if they aren’t functioning well, the low back has to carry more load. When a woman’s posture includes an increased curve to the spine, the back muscles have to work harder yet again.


Women with diastasis recti may also have feelings of generalized weakness, decreased balance, or changes in the way they breathe. All of this is due to the role of the abdominal muscles in overall core function.

Some women, especially in the early postpartum days or after a c-section, may have the feeling like their intestines are going to fall forward out of their bellies. Their bellies can feel hollow, or their bodies may feel disconnected. Again, this occurs because of the lack of ab function available for holding organs in and for connecting the top and bottom or left and right sides of the body.

Lastly, diastasis recti can be associated with a variety of gastrointestional issues. Constipation, bloating, and excessive gas can prevent normal abdominal contractions and healing after pregnancy. Even without GI issues present, women may notice that their belly shape is better at the beginning of the day and worse at the end of the day. This is due to fatigue and lack of endurance in the deep abdominal muscles that are responsible for posture and belly shape.

Diastasis recti symptoms and the pelvic floor


No discussion of diastasis recti is complete without also discussing the role of the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor refers to the group of muscles that close the bottom of the pelvis. We typically associate these muscles with peeing, pooping, and sex, but they also have a huge impact on abdominal function and thus, on diastasis recti symptoms.

Pelvic floor symptoms can look like any of the following:

  • incontinence with sneezing, laughing, coughing, lifting, running, or jumping
  • constipation
  • pain OR lack of sensation with intercourse
  • tampons fall out
  • hip or back pain or asymmetry

Although you may have heard that healing a diastasis will solve pelvic floor issues, it’s actually the reverse that’s true. Correcting pelvic floor dysfunction is a crucial step in resolving a diastasis. Improved pelvic floor function helps with recruitment of the lower abs. It also improves the position the pelvis and hips, and these changes in posture can further facilitate abdominal function. On the other hand, attempting to strengthen the abs without an understanding of the pelvic floor can result in pelvic organ prolapse.

What to do if you have these symptoms

Recognizing the presence of a few, or even many, of these symptoms does not confirm the diagnosis of diastasis recti. In fact, a woman might have several symptoms but still not have a separation of her abdominals. The reason for this is simply that everyone’s body is different. What may be pelvic floor symptoms in isolation in one woman might be the missing puzzle piece for resolving a diastasis in the next woman.

Some bellies simply protrude after the process of growing humans. Rather than an issue with the soft tissue at the midline of the belly, the answer for these women may simply be that the muscles of the abdomen are deconditioned. Telling the difference and finding an answer requires advice tailored to each specific woman.

In the U.S., two options for locating a pelvic floor physical therapist are the American Physical Therapy Association’s Section on Women’s Health or pelvicrehab.com. A pelvic floor physical therapist can help you determine if a diastasis is present. Before you seek care, you may be interested in this simple self-test you can perform at home.


8 thoughts on “Diastasis Recti Symptoms in Simple Terms”

  1. Thank you for your blog I appreciate it. I have this and my doctor confirmed and she has prescribed physical Sicle therapy. Moreover I know that the ending solution is a tummy tuck which is considered cosmetic but it’s actually necessary.

    1. Betsy Petry-Johnson

      Hi Beth! Thanks for your comment. So glad you are going to physical therapy. That is definitely the best answer. Sometimes, it ends in a tummy tuck. Other times, it doesn’t. Everyone’s different, and you have to find what works for you. I had a big separation after my triplets, and I did not have a tummy tuck. I was able to rebuild my core without one. But different things work for different people, and it’s really important to keep that in mind. If I can help answer any questions for you, don’t hesitate to reach out.

        1. Betsy Petry-Johnson

          Hi Joanna! Thanks for your comment. What I did was a combination of changing my breathing pattern and my posture, understanding my pelvic floor for really the first time, and overhauling the way I use my hips. But the question you really want to ask is ‘how do YOU fix YOURS?’ Because the answer isn’t the same for everyone. We are all unique, and we all need unique solutions. This is what I teach in my online program if you’re interested.

  2. Eileen Dagenhart

    I learn so much about the pelvic floor from your posts. I’m now 67 had two C-sections and three vbac birth now the problem. My body is a wreck with prolapse and abdominalrecti separation. I have been to PT. Which was a waste of my time. The PT was aware of my situation but she was not educated enough to give me the excersises I needed. Kegals seemed to be their go solutions Or a hysterectomy!!
    This I know can be corrected. Thank you for the education you share. Our bodies are amazing and can be strengthened to heal properly.

    1. Betsy Petry-Johnson

      Thank you, Eileen, for your kind words! I couldn’t agree with you more. Our bodies are incredible! Let me know if I can help.

  3. What if my last born was 13 years ago and I still look 8+months preggo? I’m now 46 with 3rd degree Pelvic Floor Prolapse, Diastasis Recti and Small Umb Hernia. All docs say is surgery required for all 3 issues, but insurance won’t cover it. =( So then what do I do? 13 years of this and it’s only gotten worse. Eating is hard, breathing is hard, tying my shoes is hard, I wear bigger shirts and pants now due to how much my tummy proyrudes, etc. It’s awful! My self esteem is ZERO. I’ve gone over hundreds of images online of woman who suffer from this, but not one is close to the level mine is at. I’m 5’4 at 235lbs and look like Santa had waaaay too many beers. I’m female, but a ‘boi’, so I have a masculine look, but a pregnant looking stomach. The embarrassment and overall feeling unhealthy has wreacked havoc on my mental health for years now. =(

    1. Betsy Petry-Johnson

      Hi Tasha! There is still hope. It is never, ever too late, and even if you are a surgical candidate, there is still a lot of change that you can create that would result in better surgical outcomes if you end up going that route. Or it can reduce or eliminate the need for surgery in the first place. Contrary to what you’ve been led to believe, there is a lot in your power to control. The healthcare system just doesn’t make it very easy for you to find. But honestly, that has been the inspiration for my business. I’m here to help. Feel free to send me an email at info@mamamadestrong.com. I offer a free 20-minute clarity call if you need help finding some direction, and I answer all of my own emails. You deserve better, girl. I got you.

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