Pregnancy, Abdominals Muscles and, Diastasis Recti

Amy, our Head of Physiotherapy is an expert on Read her last blog about the Diastasis!

Are you wondering if you should or shouldn't be training your abdominal muscles after having a baby?

Have you had

a baby and fed up with still having a ‘baby tummy’, a ‘pouch’ or just that feeling that your abdominals just aren’t getting stronger? You might feel you always look bloated, or even still about 4 months pregnant.

Or perhaps you are suffering with low back pain following pregnancy - have you had your abdominal muscles checked by a Women’s Health Physiotherapist?

This is a common feeling.

So why does the tummy sometimes look different post nataly?

During pregnancy, as the baby grows, what many women don’t realise is that, to accommodate that growth, changes occur not only in the uterus and skin (stretch marks!), but all the way down to the abdominal muscles.

During the later stages of pregnancy, normally during the third trimester, your tummy needs to stretch and expand out further than the abdominal muscles allow. This expansion can only take place because of the linea alba. The linea alba is connective tissue that joins the two sides of your abdominals along the centre line. The linea alba accommodates for your growing baby by becoming lax. This amazing phenomenon allows your body to accommodate the growing baby beautifully. The only downside is that this laxity in the linea alba can cause a separation of the abdominal muscles, known as a ‘Diastasis Recti’.

What does a Diastasis Recti look like?

  • It may cause bulging along the centre line of the abdomen during movement whist pregnant or postpartum. A common time for bulging is when getting out of bed, getting up off the sofa, and picking up children. Have a look at your abdominal area whilst doing this and check to see if you notice a doming or bulging along the centre line.

  • Postpartum it may cause a ‘pouch’ or ‘post pregnancy tummy’

A Diastasis Recti does mean that you have lost some of the support network for your core muscles, your spine, and potentially affecting the pelvic floor and its support for the abdominal and pelvic organs. This decreased support can cause an increased risk of injury to your lower back, and pelvic floor disorders for example incontinence. Please note that when getting up off the sofa and in and out of bed, it is advised to roll onto your side, to avoid straining your abdominal muscles if they are not quite strong yet.

Diastasis is very common; roughly 2/3 of pregnant women suffer from it. A Women’s Health physiotherapist can check the depth and width of your diastasis recti, and establish if this is the cause of any pain you might be experiencing, incontinence or lack of participation in exercise that you love to do. The depth and width of a diastasis is a marker for deciding which exercises you should and shouldn’t be doing. Whether a diastasis is 6 fingers or 2 fingers wide there are still ways of exercising and gaining control. A common misconception is that, if you have a diastasis recti you cannot return to having a flat stomach. During and after pregnancy the transverse abdominus muscle commonly does not fire/activate. Re training the transverse abdominis muscle (lower tummy) after pregnancy is a key part of the rehabilitation process of a diastasis recti. It is true to say that a diastasis affects us both physically and aesthetically.