Baby health: Is the vertical ridge in center of my baby's belly normal?

My 23-month-old boy was diagnosed by his pediatrician to have divarication of the recti muscles, another family physician called it diastasis recti. There is a raised vertical hump from the navel down when my son bends from a sitting position. I was told this is a defect one can live with, just a characteristic like the color of one's eyes. Is this true?


Robert Steele

Robert W. Steele, MD, is a board certified pediatrician at St. John's Regional Health Center in Springfield, MO. He graduated from medical... Read more

The abdomen is constructed of several layers of muscles many of which meet in the mid-line of the body. One of the primary sets of muscles that meet at this middle line are called the rectus muscles. These are the muscles that give the ripple effect of the lower abdomen in body builders. However, in newborn babies, these muscles may not be quite fully developed. In other words, they may not quite meet at this mid-line. This gap between the rectus muscles of each side of the body essentially causes a minor weakness of the abdomen. So, when the abdominal muscles are tightened like when the child cries or sits up from after lying flat, this vertical line made up of where the rectus muscles meet distends slightly outward. This phenomenon is called diastasis recti.

It is rare that diastasis recti is associated with any other serious defects although it may be accompanied by an umbilical hernia which is an outpouching about the navel. As the muscles strengthen and grow together, the vertical ridge of the diastasis recti begins to narrow. Most often, this begins to go away by about nine months of age.

This "defect" is considered normal in infants and almost always goes away by three years of age. And even if it does not completely resolve, it generally causes no difficulty for the child.

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