Abdominal separation or Diastasis Recti, is a condition that affects approx 30% of new Mums during and after pregnancy. This is where the abdominals split apart at the linea alba, or centre line, due to the pressure of baby in your tummy!
In some cases this will resolve itself, and in others, gentle exercises will be needed to close the gap safely. If the gap is left open and is severe (3 finger widths or more), this can lead to problems such as back pain.
How do I know if I have abdominal separation?
To figure out whether you have abdominal separation, try the following:
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent
2. Lift your head & neck slightly off the ground to engage your core.
3. Use two fingers (one above the other) and feel around the midline, is there a gap?
4. To check how wide the gap is use your fingers (side by side) to measure how many finger widths the gap is.
Two finger widths or less is ok (you will still need to start with gentle exercises). A width of 3 fingers or more needs special attention to bring it back together. To safely close the gap post pregnancy, gentle strengthening exercises should be done before moving intomore intense exercises. The more traditional core exercisessuch as sit ups and planks, should also be avoided until the area has been corrected/strengthened. Basically, any exercise that causes the tummy to 'bulge' outwards is a no no until the gap has been closed or reduced.
Below are a few options to safely start working on strengthening your core & pelvic floor. To ensure you are engaging your pelvic floor during the exercises, imagine that you are needing to go to the toilet and ‘holding on’. You should feel your pelvic floor ‘lift’.
Alternating Supermans (bird/dog)
Start on all fours (your hands and knees)
lift your arm, along with the opposite leg so they are in line with your torso
Squeeze your glutes, engage your core & pelvic floor, and point your toes to activate your leg muscles
Hold for a few seconds
Bring back to the floor and switch sides
Repeat 10-12 reps each side, 2-3 sets
Lie flat on your back with your knees bent & feet flat on the floor
Lift your hips up so that your body forms a straight line
Squeeze your glutes (at the top) and engage your pelvic floor
Come back to start position
Repeat 10-12 reps, 2-3 sets
1. Start on all fours (knees and hands) 2. Dip your stomach towards the floor, engage your pelvic floor, and stretch through the lower back 3. Arch your back towards the ceiling while continuing to engage your pelvic floor 4. Repeat x12, 2-3 sets