Is Your ‘Ab Crack’ Actually a Health Condition?

A woman working out
A woman working out Photo: Mihailo Milovanovic/Getty Images

Women are fully aware of all of the ways that having a baby can change our bodies. Some of them are just temporary, and some are to stay.

We gain weight, and the general shape of things can change. And while we all hope to gain confidence in our new forms, there are some things that might surprise us to learn. Take for instance, our abdomens. Oh, the poor abdomen. Possibly only the breasts are more disrupted by having children — and only if one chooses to breastfeed, really. But the abdomen suffers the worst traumas — the stretch marks, the signs of pushing and pulling. It can take months to bounce back. And now, we’re not just searching for our lost six-pack abs. Now, we’re hearing about something called an “ab crack.”

Many women — even those who work to get their pre-baby bodies back into their post-baby lives as quickly as possible, find that their ab muscles have changed, and that they don’t comply with exercise. About a third of pregnant women, it turns out, suffer from a condition known as diastasis recti, which  is about as bad as it sounds: The ab muscles stretch and separate away from the center line of the abdomen, leaving a big old space down the center of the stomach. Many women suffer from this condition during pregnancy, but see their muscles return back to “normal” after the baby has arrived. But some women find that this condition remains.

Physically, this can lead to a belly that sticks out a little farther than we’re used to, no matter how much dieting or exercise we do. You can tell for sure if you have the condition by laying on your back and feeling the space between your muscles that runs vertically from your sternum to your belly button. If there is a space wider than two of your fingers, you probably have diastasis recti. The condition can be professionally diagnosed by a physician, and there are nonsurgical ways to treat it, via physical therapy and with special exercises. There are even trainers who focus on treating this problem full time. What’s most important to know, however, is that not all “ab cracks” are created equally, and just doing a lot of crunches won’t help.