Almost every brand-new mom still looks pregnant after giving birth — but if your belly is still pooching out months after giving birth, you, like up to 40 percent of all new moms, may have a diastasis recti.
A diastasis recti is caused when the connective tissue gets stretched out between the pair of long, flat muscles that runs vertically down both sides of your abdomen (the rectus abdominis), causing them to separate. The result is a ridge that looks like a loaf of mushy bread protruding from your belly, a ridge that stands out even more when you cough or sit up.
Traditional abdominal exercises like crunches can make a diastatis recti worse, but a physical therapist can guide you on exercises that can improve the condition.
Meanwhile, Fort Worth, Texas ob-gyn Cynthia Robbins, M.D., reminds women that their insurance will generally pay for some type of binder that gives women relief while they’re recovering.
If your doctor thinks a binder or wrap will help you, they can prescribe it just like a medication.
“I have written many prescriptions for durable medical goods so patients can pay for it using their flexible spending account, or their insurance company will reimburse them for it, ” says Dr. Robbins. “In general, any durable medical goods like bands, belts, wraps, splints, casts, crutches, etc. are reimbursable by insurance.”
What you need to show your insurance is a prescription with the CPT or Current Procedural Terminology code [a string of numbers that identifies the item recommended], and a receipt for the item you bought. Dr. Robbins says hospitals often have binders for their patients to take home, but “they’re cheap, can be scratchy, and are one-size-fits-all. In my experience, women do better buying their own and then getting reimbursement from insurance.”
What type of binder do you want? Dr. Robbins says it doesn’t matter how a wrap is constructed, but it should fit around you and compress the front of your belly using either Velcro or eyelet hooks.
Dr. Robbins also cautions women to stop using wraps after about three months.
“You just want to stabilize the body so you can exercise and otherwise move around normally,” she says. “The binder should just be used for three months postpartum to ensure your hipbones and pubic bones don’t shift out and your muscles still contract the same instead of ballooning out.”
Of course, it should go without saying that your postpartum body will be different than prepartum — and that you should bring your concerns to your doctor, who can help.