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Medical Condition Prevents Post-Pregnancy Belly Bulge From Going Away For Some

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- For any woman who's ever had a baby, you know how hard it is to get that pre-pregnancy body back.

As CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez reported, a lot of women actually suffer from a medical condition that prevents that belly bulge from ever going away.

Katherine Hill isn't expecting, yet two and a half years after her pregnancy and despite an active lifestyle, she still wasn't getting back her pre-baby body.

"My stomach should go back to normal," she said. "Why don't I have the flat tummy anymore?"

And worse, some day to day tasks were becoming painful.

"Just the lean, slight lean over the tub or sink was causing me problems," she said.

Turns out, Katherine had something called Diastasis Recti-Abdominis, or DRA. It's a fancy way of saying she's developed a gap between her rectus abdominal muscles.

"It can lead to mom tummy," Doctor of Physical Therapy Ashley Rawlins said. "The bulge in the abdomen that just won't go away."

As the muscles lengthen and stretch during pregnancy, the tissue that holds them together can thin and deteriorate. It leads to the bulging belly. As Rawlins explains, it's not just moms who suffer from it.

"Weight lifters with a lot of strain and stress in their abdominals or older men that have issues managing the pressure," she added.

An ultrasound is the most accurate way to diagnose DRA, but you can also do a self test by checking three spots near your belly button.

"Reach for it and put your head and neck up and feel between the muscle bellies and relax," she said.

Katherine is trying physical therapy as a remedy, but for those who want or need a more immediate result there's a well known surgical option; the tummy tuck.

"The reconstruction of the abdominal girdle, where you close the gap between the abdominal muscles and sometimes we even add pleating sutures on the sides to recreate the narrow waist that one had before," cosmetic plastic surgeon Dr. Scott Wells said. "No amount of exercise alone will get it back."

Insurance won't cover the plastic surgery for cosmetic reasons, but if it's deemed medically necessary because of pain or other physical limitations then you may be covered.

Physical therapy can help, but it can also take a significantly longer time to achieve results.

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