During pregnancy, the growing uterus stretches the muscles in the abdomen. This can cause the two large parallel bands of muscles that meet in the middle of the abdomen to separate — a condition called diastasis recti. Diastasis recti might cause a bulge in the middle of the abdomen where the two muscles separate.
In mummy terms, it is that frustrating post-baby pooch that doesn’t go away when the baby weight does and often leads to the “when are you due” question while you are holding your two year old!! How rude!
In extreme cases diastasis can be connected to lower back pain, abdominal pain, and even pelvic problems.
Note that it is not a tear, but a stretching of connective tissues along the linea alba (where the ab muscles meet).
Why does this happen? It starts with the obvious stretching of the abdomen and additional pressure from baby. Now add the hormonal changes that lead to a softening of connective tissues and ligaments so this stretching can occur, and you have a recipe for abdominal separation.
Statistically, 98+% of women have a diastasis after delivery. It is more likely to happen when:
* the more pregnancies a woman has
* a mum has multiples
* an underlying abdominal problem (like weak core muscles) already exists.
* Over doing abdominal exercises during pregnancy especially after the first trimester which put too much pressure on your rectus abdominals
I was shocked to hear from some many women how their GP or midwife had never even mentioned it to them during their pregnancy so continued to exercise as normal throughout and then wonder why the separation is quite severe once baby has arrived.
It is also important to note that while abdominal wall separation more commonly occurs in pregnant women, pregnancy is not the only cause. Men and children can suffer from a separation as well due to unusual internal abdominal pressure, such as after a surgery or injury.
Take a look at the picture below to show you what it looks like and how each case can be totally different.
Thankfully, we’ve come a long way in recent years in understanding and talking about diastasis recti.
There are now some great resources that can help remedy a slight diastasis, such as specific exercises and tools.
In the follow up video to this article I will show you how to check if you have it and measure how big the gap is plus other videos showing you specific exercises to help closing the gap safely and correctly.
Knowing Exercises to avoid during pregnancy and after are vital, even the way you get out of bed or get up off the floor are so important. Keeping your core strong throughout your pregnancy is extremely important but it’s not about keeping that six pack now, it’s about gaining inner strength that’s the going to support your labour, assist recovery and keep your body strong for all the new moves like bending up and down you’ll be doing once baby arrives.
Watch my follow on video to show you what not to do and how to correct it if you do.