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Physiotherapists’ and midwives’ views of increased inter recti abdominis distance and its management in women after childbirth

  • Gustavsson, Catharina1, 2, 3
  • Eriksson-Crommert, Martin4
  • 1 Uppsala University, Nissers väg 3, Falun, S-79182, Sweden , Falun (Sweden)
  • 2 Dalarna University, Falun, SE-79188, Sweden , Falun (Sweden)
  • 3 Uppsala University, BMC, Box 564, Uppsala, SE-751 22, Sweden , Uppsala (Sweden)
  • 4 Örebro University, Region Örebro county, Box 1613, Örebro, 701 16, Sweden , Örebro (Sweden)
Published Article
BMC Women's Health
BioMed Central
Publication Date
Feb 27, 2020
DOI: 10.1186/s12905-020-00907-9
Springer Nature


BackgroundPhysiotherapists and midwives in primary healthcare often encounter women with an increased separation between the two rectus abdominis muscle bellies after pregnancy, a so-called increased inter recti distance (IRD). There are few studies on the contribution of increased IRD to the explanation of post-partum health complaints, and very little guidance in the literature for health professionals on the management of increased IRD. The aim of this study was to describe how physiotherapists and midwives in primary healthcare perceive the phenomenon of increased IRD and its management in women after childbirth.MethodsA purposeful sampling approach was used to select physiotherapists and midwives working in primary healthcare in three large county council healthcare organisations in Sweden having experience of encountering women with increased IRD after pregnancy. Sixteen physiotherapists and midwives participated in focus group discussions. Four focus groups with four participants in each were undertaken. A semi-structured topic guide was used to explore responses to the research questions and the discussions were analysed using qualitative content analysis.ResultsWe identified an overarching theme: Ambivalence towards the phenomenon increased IRD and frustration over insufficient professional knowledge. The theme included three categories: Uncertainty concerning the significance of increased IRD as a causal factor for functional problems; perceived insufficient professional knowledge base for the management of increased IRD; and lack of inter-professional collaboration and teamwork in the management of patients with increased IRD. Due to sparse and somewhat contradictory research findings and absence of clinical guidelines, the health professionals lacked basic preconditions for applying an evidence-based practice concerning increased IRD. They obtained their information about increased IRD from the media and fitness coaches, and hence were somewhat unsure about what to believe regarding the phenomenon.ConclusionsThere was no consensus among the health professionals on how to best approach increased IRD in the clinical setting. Our findings stress the importance of more research to increase the professional knowledge base among physiotherapists and midwives. The findings highlight the urgent need for policies and clinical guidelines advising health professionals in the management of increased IRD and for facilitating inter-professional collaboration and teamwork.

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