It’s common for your abs to separate during pregnancy. This is called Diastasis Recti.
The amount of separation can vary. It happens because your growing womb pushes the muscles apart, making them longer and weaker.
The separation between your stomach muscles will usually go back to normal by the time your baby is 8 weeks old.
What should I be looking out for?
The common signs of diastasis include:
- Doming or bulging of the tummy
- Low back or pelvic pain
- Pelvic floor weakness ie. incontinence
- Feeling of “core” weakness
How to test for Diastasis Recti
After giving birth, you can assess the extent of abdominal muscle separation using a straightforward method:
- Lie on your back with your legs bent, and your feet flat on the floor.
- Elevate your shoulders slightly and look down to your tummy.
- Using the tips of your fingers, palpate between the muscle edges both above and below your belly button. See how many fingers you can fit into the gap between your muscles.
- Consistently perform this check to monitor a gradual reduction in the gap.
All women will experience a degree of diastasis towards the end of their pregnancy but the key is to keep it minimal. It is only considered a problem if the diastasis is more than a two finger width apart. You can follow the tips below but if the separation remains noticeable eight weeks post-birth, it is advisable to consult your GP as you may need some exercises to help them come together.
What should I do if I am experiencing these signs?
- Work on re-engaging and strengthening your core (especially your transversus abdominus and pelvic floor). One was to do this is with 360 Breathing.
- Work on your posture – you should be standing tall and upright.
In extreme cases, the use of a pregnancy band may also help you.
What should I avoid if I have Diastasis Recti?
Things to avoid when you have Diastasis Recti include:
- Sit up type motions ie. when getting out of bed. Roll on to your side and then push up using your arms.
- Constipation and straining on the toilet. Do this by ensuring you eat lots of fibre.
- Heavy lifting.
- Crunches or planks as these increase the ‘pull’ apart of the abs. But there are lots of variations you can do such as standing crunchies or incline plank.
If you are concerned about diastasis recti you can go to the doctor and they will refer you to the physio. But for a more in depth investigation in the postnatal period, book an ‘Mummy MOT’ with a private physio.