I have already posted about why new mums shouldn’t be doing crunches but recently I have had a few new clients who have been struggling with their new bodies since the births of their children due to the separation of the abdominals that happened during the pregnancy. With this in mind I thought it would be good to share some info about why it happens and what you can do to help.
What is Abdominal Separation?
The six-pack muscle (Rectus Abdominis) runs from your breast bone to your pubic bone and is joined together with a strong fibrous sheath called the Linea Alba.
During pregnancy, lots of people’s abdominal muscles gently separate to make space for the baby to grown and move itself into the correct position. The Rectus Abdominis stretches vertically (up and down your stomach) to accommodate baby bump at your front, and when it can’t stretch any further up and down, it then starts to separate horizontally (from left to right). This is completely normal and nothing to be concerned about but postnatally, it is a good idea to try and work the abdominals in the correct way to try and draw them back towards each other so your body can function in the best possible way.
You may have heard people talk about your abdominal muscles “splitting”. Your muscles don’t actually “split”, because they’re already in a separated state, as they’re held together by the Linea Alba which I mentioned above.
So in effect, it’s the left and right sides of your six pack muscle that have separated from one another. I guess it’s a little bit like the Linea Alba is heavy duty cling film stretching apart. The muscles don’t separate in every pregnancy. It depends on a number of factors. The separation can take place above the belly button, below the belly button, or both.
How to Test Yourself For Abdominal Separation
This post should enable you to do a self-test of your own abdominals for diastasis recti (abdominal separation) after birth. The test is often called the ‘Rec Check’, because it’s the Rectus Abdominus muscle (aka the six-pack muscle) that gets affected during abdominal separation. If you come along to one of my postnatal classes I will usually perform this check on you so we know what is happening in your abdominal muscles so feel free to ask me to if you are not sure!
You need to be lying on your back to do the ‘Rec Check’…..but, before you jump down there, here’s the sequence I’d like you to follow to step down onto the floor safely:
• Step down onto one knee
• Place the other knee down, followed by both hands
• Turn onto your side
• The walk yourself down sideways
• Then, keeping your knees together, roll over onto your back
SET UP POSITION FOR THE ‘REC CHECK’
• Legs are bent
• Feet on the floor
• Feet and knees are hip-width apart
FINGER TIPS AT THE READY…
Diastasis recti is measured in finger-widths, so you’ll need to place two fingers on your abdominals.
Start with two finger tips above your belly button, pointing them down towards your pelvis.
ACTION FOR THE ‘REC CHECK’ TEST
With your body and fingers at the ready, we’re good to go.
You’ll need to do a little ‘sit-up’ and breathe out as you dig your fingertips down into your tummy.
Wiggle them from left to right slightly, and see if you can ‘feel’ the muscles ‘grab’ the sides of your fingers ever so slightly.
Repeat above and below your belly button to get an accurate test.
If you find you can fit more than 2 finger widths in this gap here, then you may like to ask me to check your abdominals the next time you’re in class to make sure.