Bridging the GAP: The Lived Experience of Women with Diastasis Recti Abdominis

Jennifer Wiley, Veronica Leader, Katelyn Nesbit, Steven Shows, Laura Santurri, Lisa Borrero, Ruth Maher

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting abstract


Purpose: Diastasis recti abdominis (DRA) leads to a myriad of limitations in the physical and emotional well-being of women. Research has primarily focused on diagnostic tools and treatment. Consequently, there is an absence of evidence regarding the lived experience of women with DRA and the lack of interventions and accurate patient education. The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experience of women with DRA. Subjects: Purposive sampling recruited female participants of any age with a self-reported or medical diagnosis of DRA. Participants (N = 13; 31.3 years ± 3.65) were 8 weeks to 3 years postpartum, and 26 (10 cesarean) reported births. Materials/Methods: Qualitative methodology with a basic interpretive approach and purposive sampling was used. Participants contributed their experience through a semistructured, in-depth interview. Recruitment occurred in a variety of settings including outpatient physical therapy practices, OB/GYN offices, online support groups for mothers/expecting mothers, and local colleges and universities. In-person or online interviews were completed following verbal consent and audio recordings were obtained. Transcribed audio recordings were used for coding and identification of overarching themes. Rigor and trustworthiness were enhanced using a variety of techniques. Results: Six predominant themes emerged including lack of education offered by clinicians, lack of patient knowledge, sources of self-education, impact of diagnosis, benefits of education, and problems with available education. Participants reported that lack of education limited their ability to self-identify associated signs and symptoms leading to negative impacts on body image, fear of future functional limitations, and an inability to seek appropriate treatment. Pursuit of alternative sources of knowledge resulted in inconsistent information leading to confusion and fear. Participants who received appropriate education reported an associated reduction in anxiety and increased drive to seek help with recovery. Participants also identified the need for education pre- and postpartum. Conclusions: The need for education was a pivotal outcome with associated anxiety and fear ablated with the acquisition of appropriate education. Participants stated that receiving such education pre- and postpartum would have a positive effect on body image and self-confidence. Further research should focus on specific components of education and ultimate outcomes. Clinical Relevance: The results highlight the need for effective targeted educational programs allowing women to make informed decisions. Allowing clinicians a look through the personal lens of affected women could provide the impetus to developing targeting education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E1-E25
JournalJournal of Women's Health Physical Therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

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