Now that you have had your baby you might be thinking about getting back into some exercise.
Before getting too excited, it’s really important to get your doctors go-ahead first. Some women are OK to start exercising 4 weeks post birth but if you’ve had a C-section, 8-12 weeks is more commonly the norm to give your body time to recover from the surgery.
So once you have your doctor’s approval, another important checkpoint is to assess whether you have experienced “diastasis recti” the fancy way of saying: “abdominal separation”.
The muscles that sometimes present as a 6-pack are the Rectus Abdominus muscles, which run in two lines underneath the chest – all the way to the pubic bone.
In between the two sides of the Rectus Abdominus muscle, there is connective tissue called the Linea Alba. This tissue often becomes darkened during pregnancy and is the point at which the diastasis or splitting can occur to accommodate the growing baby.
Separations are quite common particularly after multiple pregnancies. And it’s important that you choose appropriate exercises to help decrease the severity of the separation. If you do not strengthen the abdominals with safe exercises you may find you experience elevated back pain, have difficulty getting rid of the ‘mummy tummy’ and less common but still likely; you may find your abdominal organs start to press out through the gap causing an abdominal herniation.
By now you are probably wondering ok so how to a minimise the severity of my abdominal separation?
Avoid doing any crunching exercises as they shorten the Rectus Abdominus and may widen the gap.
Roll to your side when you get up from the floor or bed.
Avoid front loading baby carriers, as the Rectus Abdominus has to work hard to support the weight of the baby.
And finally, when lifting, always focus on your posture. Ensure that you lift your Pelvic Floor first, draw in your lower abdominals and bend at the knees and hips to keep your back straight while lifting. Also remember to exhale with every effort.
If you have any concerns it is also recommended to see a women’s health physiotherapist both during your pregnancy and in the postpartum period.