Diastasis Recti

Pregnancy Update: We’re nearing the end of week 37. I am ginormous, and the growth scan a couple days ago estimates that baby is already 8 pounds, 8 ounces. We get to set an induction date at my next OB appointment (which will hopefully be sooner rather than later. The perinatologist said she would push it closer to 38 weeks, because of the gestational diabetes and baby’s size…and then she got concerned and even more sure about the 38 week marker when she heard that my mom needed c-sections because my sister wouldn’t fit through her pelvis (and my sister wasn’t a big baby)). I’m hoping for the 19th, because it’s near the tail end of week 38 (which the OB can’t really argue with at this point, right?) and because it’s likely to lead to a March 20th birthday for our little one, which is Ostara and also when the baby’s sun sign would be Aries.

I’ve got a constant headache that actually gets worse every day, and which Tylenol and Norco don’t even touch (but the Norco does make me throw up, so I guess opiates and I just don’t get along). I’m more and more nauseous, and having trouble eating consistently and eating the right things for my gestational diabetes. I can’t imagine having to even make it to 40 weeks, let alone 42 like so many women do. My body is so worn out from the hyperemesis and diabetes, though, that perhaps if I was in prime shape like my sister was it wouldn’t be quite so unthinkable. Mostly I’m just excited to meet this baby already, and find out whether it’s a boy or girl.

So, back to the title of the post. Diastasis Recti. Anyone know what that is? Don’t feel bad if you don’t, because I certainly didn’t before all this. In fact, I had to figure it out entirely on my own, because it was just casually mentioned at an OB appointment when I was fogged out from this stupid headache. The OB just said, “Also, you’re developing a hernia, so have someone help you to sit up, or roll your butt in the air when you’re getting up from bed if no one is there to help you.”

That’s it. Dazed and severely pregnant, and dealing with underlying issues of not being able to speak up for myself much when an authority figure is “too busy” to be bothered with me…all I knew was that he had said the word “hernia.” So, I worried on the drive home, then turned to Google. The first thing I find? Hernias are ONLY repairable with surgery. There’s no way to otherwise repair a hernia. Okay. So, big deal. The only “surgery” I’ve ever had was getting my wisdom teeth out, and there were problems with the anesthesia dosing, and come to think of it the Vicodin they gave me afterward made me throw up then, too. I guess getting my PICC line placed counts as surgery of a sort, but it was so painless and easy it didn’t feel like it. There wasn’t some massive war wound afterward that created a jagged scar or anything. Just a tiny little point, bigger than a mole but already fading into that white scar tissue that just blends into my pale skin.

At this point I’m a little freaked. How can a doctor say so cavalierly that I’ve got an issue that might require surgery, and a lot more doctor visits, and probably physical therapy, and all of it?? Especially since I don’t know anything about it, and he didn’t even bother saying what kind of hernia I was developing.

In steps the internet, and all the helpful posters on forums far and wide. I learn about umbilical hernias and diastasis recti, primarily from women describing the “bulge” or “football” that their stomach mounds into when they are sitting up (like doing a crunch). My pregnant belly has been doing that for a good long time, pretty much after that cough I developed after the baby shower. How nice, that no one mentioned it before, even though they must have seen it at all my other OB appointments and NSTs at the hospital!

What I gathered from my frantic internet research is this: diastasis recti is the separation of the ab muscles. It’s pretty common in pregnancy, and most women aren’t ever aware of it and it can actually go away on its on post-pregnancy. Except in some cases when it just doesn’t. And then mom is wondering why she still looks pregnant months after her baby has been born. The stretching/thinning/separation of the ab muscles there can also cause an umbilical hernia, which happens when the ab muscles are so stretched that your organs can then—painfully—fit through gaps in them. The umbilical hernia is only repairable with surgery. Whether or not it develops, post-pregnancy, is kind of up in the air. I kind of just have to wait for my uterus to go back down to a more normal size, and then see if my other organs decide to start poking through my weakened ab muscles. Fun stuff.

The good news, or at least slightly less sucky news, is that diastasis recti is somewhat treatable, with splinting and strengthening of the transverse abdominal muscles. I can draw my ab muscles back toward each other, narrowing the gap and decreasing the chance of an umbilical hernia. My biggest disappointment, though, is that none of my health care providers warned me about this, or talked about treatment for it. I suppose if they didn’t want to alarm me, they would just wait to see if a hernia actually developed first, or see if the diastasis recti didn’t fix itself after delivery. But isn’t it better to be proactive about these things? I’d rather know what I could be doing now, and what needs to be done soon after delivery, to prevent or address these issues.

It’s all just icing on the cake at this point, with how many things have gone wrong during this pregnancy. I very much want it to be over. We’re close, but the days pass very slow, lately.

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