Abdominals and Pregnancy

Pregnancy can in some cases cause the separation of the abdominal muscles – diastasis recti – which occurs when the right and left halves of rectus abdominis muscle spread apart at the body’s midline fascia, the linea alba. The separation of these muscles is due to the weight of the child placed on the abdominal wall, but also to the new hormonal balance, which favours the relaxation of connective tissue (white line).

This separation may occur in the last trimester of pregnancy and become even more problematic after delivery, when the abdominals are weaker.

The diastasis reduces the efficiency with which the abdominal muscles carry out their stabilizing action of the body trunk. It can worsen the pain and instability of the spine and pelvis. Its appearance during a pregnancy increases the likelihood of recurrence and seriousness during subsequent pregnancies.

During our FitParents classes we take into account the condition of each mother. The delivery date is always a decisive factor in the choice of the most appropriate and effective exercises.

Check with a simple test

This simple test, that you can do on your own, will help you understand if there was a gap of the abdominal muscles and how large it is.

  • Lie on your back with knees bent and the soles of the feet flat on the floor
  • Place one hand behind the head and the other hand on your stomach, with your fingers on the midline of your body and parallel to the waistline above the belly button
  • With relaxed abdominals, gently press your fingers against the abdominal wall
  • Lift your head and shoulders off the floor, making sure that the chest is as close to the hips as possible
  • Move your fingers to the left and right sides, testing the walls of the rectus abdominis musclen

To perform this test correctly, several precautions should be taken. For example, when you lift head and shoulders by contracting your abdominal muscles, make sure not to force your neck by not bringing the chin close to the breastbone, but rather keep a distance of at least a fist between your chin and sternum. The contraction has to be performed approaching the chest to the hip. When this is properly done, the more you contract, the smaller the gap.

How to know if there is a gap in the abdominal wall

However, if

  • the diastasis recti exceeds 2-3 fingers
  • it does not diminish despite greater contraction of the abdominal muscle
  • a small excrescence appears

then we’re probably dealing with a separation of the abdominal muscles. It is then imperative to take precautions during physical exercises, with an appropriate routine and after obtaining the consent of your doctor.

Movements to avoid

It is recommended to avoid all movements that strain the rectus of the abdomen, including stretching exercises or other movements that occur during normal activities of daily life and may extend the abdominal wall.

  • Torso rotational movements
  • Laying on your back on a fit ball
  • All traditional abs exercises that work your superficial abdominals and oblique crunches
  • Lifting and carrying heavy objects
  • Very strong fits of coughing

If immediately after pregnancy you have an allergic crisis, the flu or a cold, it is recommended, before coughing, to position both hands on the belly, pressing on the centre of the abdomen to keep the abdominals wall compact, as if you wanted to join the two vertical parts. The aim of this manoeuvre is to avoid worsening the situation.

Where to start, which exercises

How to recover the shape that we had before pregnancy? First, we believe that it is important to start with exercises aimed at toning the stomach through the deepest abdominal muscles which perform the action of containing the viscera. So we will have the repertoire of breathing-related exercises, that aim to compress the abdomen, move it as close as possible to the spine, giving the effect of an abdomen that implodes inward and then withdraws.

After restoring tone and elasticity of the muscle, you can perform exercises that include more superficial abdominal muscles, such as the abdomen rectus muscles.

At first, you can use a rubber band to help the reconciliation of the two parts of the abdominals during the contraction phase, ensuring that the belly is flat when you get to the peak of intensity.

This will not be particularly difficult if you join the FitParents classes right after the postnatal check. Breathing also plays an important role and you must combine it harmoniously with the contraction and release phases to obtain the maximum benefit from your exercise. Then, while we will continue to monitor the improvement of the abdominal rectus muscles you will gain a greater control of the obliques and next be ready to proceed in our routine which will then include all other abdominal exercises, to once again, feel in great shape!