Abdominal Separation in Pregnancy

Posted by on Jun 28, 2012 in Pre/Post-natal Yoga | Comments Off on Abdominal Separation in Pregnancy

Abdominal Separation in Pregnancy

This evening I had a chat with one of my prenatal students about diastasis recti (abdominal separation) as I had noticed during practice that there was a linear gap running vertically down the center of her baby bump.  I knew it right away as I too had diastasis during pregnancy.  While I had discovered mine after an extended practice of navasana (boat pose- a deep abdominal pose) had left me sore and achy as if I’d been punched in the stomach (clearly the muscles had moved apart suddenly for me), this student wasn’t aware that she had started to separate.

Most women that experience this separation of the left and right halves of the rectus abdominus muscle do so because they are carrying a large baby or twins, because they have had a previous separation, or because they had practiced regular abdominal toning exercises before and/or during pregnancy.  The tighter the abdominal wall, the harder it is to stretch and gently give way to the growing baby.  The result is that the tension increases as the baby grows and as the muscles are so tight and taught that they split in the place where they are most weak, which is where the two halves meet along the center.

You can usually tell if you have diastasis recti by laying on your back and gently lifting your head and looking down at your belly.  This slight abdominal contraction will make the separation more obvious and you will notice a little canyon between the left and right of your baby bump as you look towards the navel.  While there is nothing you can do once it has begun (during pregnancy, at least), you can put a stop to any core work you may have been practicing.  The abdominal wall needs to stretch, not tighten.  The best thing you can do is to work more on side stretches instead.  Try one that begins in an easy seated forward fold and then extend one arm in front of you on the floor.  In a flowing movement,  cross the body and extend the arm overhead, opening the heart towards the ceiling and grounding the opposite sitting bone down on the mat to facilitate elongation through the side body.  Move back and forth, side to side.  Inhale to open and extend, exhale back down to center.

After you give birth and are given the okay to resume physical activity (usually at 6 weeks for most women without additional complications such as c-sections or a hernia- something that may require surgery), you can begin to work the abdominal center back together again.  I won’t lie to you, it’s not an easy task.  I find that I still have weakness here despite a lot of effort and concentration.

In your post-partum workout, avoid crunches and movements that aim for 6-pack abs and instead work on rebuilding the structure from the foundation first.  Lay on your back with the sacrum resting on the floor, your feet placed on the floor in front of your buttocks with your knees bent (as if in bridge).  With your inhale feel the ground with the sacrum, and as you exhale, gently roll the pubic bone in towards you very slightly, keep your head and neck on the ground, and hold, inhale roll back down.  Continue working here with as many reps as you feel comfortable with.  These pelvic rolls will work on strengthening deep core muscles that work as a girdle of support for your posture and gait.  Once you begin to regain strength and integrity here, you can begin incorporating more involved core strengthening work.  Visiting a physiotherapist is useful for women with deep/wide gaps who don’t know where to start.  But most women can take some time to work it together slowly.

Just as your body took 40 weeks adjusting to its final physiology, be patient as it moves back.  Moving too fast too soon can lead to more complications and set you back further.  You can read more about this in my article on abdominal work in pregnancy here.

All content by Lisa Veronese. Please do not publish or copy my material without my consent.