The enduring mystery of the postpartum pooch

Story highlights

  • Most women who give birth experience some degree of postpartum abdominal separation
  • Experts don't know what heals abdominal separation -- or whether it needs to be healed at all

(CNN)Culturally, the postpartum body is a source of abiding fascination. We are enthusiastic observers of women's shapes after childbirth and celebrate those who shed all evidence of pregnancy a few months after having a baby. These are the women who, as tabloids put it, "bounce back," even though few believe that the effort involved was akin to bouncing or any such rapid and organic movement.

Medically, the postpartum body is basically invisible. In the United States, women generally have just one appointment in this period, six weeks after childbirth, and it tends to be brief. (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently recommended changing this.) We are largely -- and a little hopelessly -- on our own when navigating the various aches and dysfunction that pregnancy and childbirth leave in their wake.