It is completely normal and essential that your rectus abdominus (your 6-pack muscle) separates during pregnancy to allow for your growing baby. This is known as abdominal separation or Diastasis of the Rectus Abdominus Muscle (DRAM). In this post we’ll look at identifying and treating abdominal separation after pregnancy.
It is estimated that 1 in 3 women (37%) will have abdominal separation after their first pregnancy and 2 in 3 women (67%) who have had multiple pregnancies. This separation can range from 2cm to 20cm wide.
You may have abdominal separation after pregnancy in the following patterns.
How to check your abdominal separation at home
We encourage that you see a qualified professional to check your abdominals, but here is a guide how to check your abdominal separation at home:
- Lay on your back, with your knees bent
- Place your fingers in the centre of your tummy just below your breastbone
- Raise your upper body off the floor as if doing a small sit up
- Feel if there is a gap or divet between your abdominal muscles. A gap greater than 2 finger widths is considered separation.
- Repeat this process feeling all the way down the centre of your tummy below your belly button
Watch this instructional video for more…
So, you have abdominal separation, what’s next?
It is very important that you do not attempt traditional abdominal strengthening exercises (sit ups, planks, v-sits etc) if you have separation. This may worsen your separation and place stress to your lower back and pelvic floor. There are specific exercises that you can do to help in a specific order. These exercises start very basic and progress to the more traditional abdominal workouts as your technique improves.
Your maternal health physiotherapist will check if you have abdominal separation after pregnancy and give you advice about how to start strengthening safely as well.
More information here…
2 Exercises to get started wtih right now
Here are 2 exercises you can get started with at home to wake up your abdominals:
These exercises are appropriate to do immediately post-partum BUT it should not be painful. Stop if you experience any pain.
Tummy Vacuum Exercise to Help Abdominal Separation After Pregnancy
- Start in 4 point kneeling on your hands and knees (with your hands under your shoulders, and knees under your hips)
- Slowly and gently draw your tummy up toward your spine. Start by drawing in your lower tummy below your belly button, then around your belly button and all the way up toward your upper tummy (below your breastbone)
- At the same time, gently round your spine up in to a cat stretch
Start with a 3/10 effort (don’t suck your tummy in too firmly to begin with) and over the coming weeks, you can slowly draw in firmer as you tolerate.
One Leg Stretch Level 1
- Begin by laying on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor
- Gently lengthen one leg along the floor, sliding your heel away from you
- Gently return your heel to the start
- Repeat on the other leg
- Repeat 10x each leg
- Focus on keeping your pelvis and lower back still
This exercise will feel very easy, but the goal is to wake up the obliques (the muscles on the sides of your tummy). This will help to draw your waist in, helping the rectus abdominus to come closer together without placing any stress to the muscle or lower back.
Click for video – One Leg Stretch Level 1 (abdominal separation)