As much as 60% of women who have recently given birth suffer from the separation of abdominal muscles and still around one of three women after a year from giving birth. *
During pregnancy, deep abdominal muscles, the entire peritoneum, and the white line (connective tissue between abdominal muscles) stretch as the belly grows. At the same time, direct abdominal muscles are pushed apart to the sides of the belly, and the white line (linea alba in Latin) between them widens.
The image below show examples of abdomens with separated abdominal muscles.
If the direct abdominal muscles (=rectus abdominis) fail to restore after childbirth, i.e. there is space between them, activation of deep abdominal muscles is reduced and muscle tension is low. The condition is known as separation of direct abdominal muscles (=diastasis recti).
Rehabilitating exercises can improve the situation and the recovery radically. Spontaneous restoration of the muscles continues for around one year after childbirth, highlighting the importance of slow progress in training and recovery.
Starting training too soon after childbirth, or doing the wrong kind of exercise, can prevent recovery of the abdominal muscles. For this reason, you should test for the separated abdominal muscles before starting to train. Also, training should always be started with gentle exercises that activate the abdominal muscles in a safe way, as we do on the Safe and Strong course.
At home, you can test the separation of the abdominal muscles this way:
If you can place more than one finger in the gap, horizontally, and/or you feel that the edges of the abdominal muscles are far apart, your abdominal muscles have become separated. If so, you can greatly benefit from rehabilitative exercises. The same applies to situations where the white line between the abdominal muscles feels soft and inelastic or if you can feel pulse on your stomach.
And it's not only about the looks, it's even more about the function of the body. If the body doesn't function as it's supposed to, it has a major effect to basically everything! It affects self-esteem and how we see ourselves, which further affects on how others see us. If you can't trust your body and fear for example leaking, it can prevent from enjoying all kinds of situations. Also, when having pain, our brains get constantly signal of uncomfortable feeling. It's impossible to be at your best!
Many women feel pressure to get back in shape after pregnancy. That can lead doing too much too soon and harming the vulnerable body.
You can start gentle exercises once you have had your postpartum check-up and have been told that everything is as it should be. (However, pelvic floor muscle workouts can and should be started immediately after childbirth.) Give your body time to heal and recover from the pregnancy and childbirth, and listen to yourself and your body at all times during all exercise and training. Give your body what it needs; respect for creating a new life and help in healing by listening to it and doing gentle exercises.
It is great that you are also thinking about your own well-being now that your baby has arrived.
The separation increases the risk of various back problems and poor posture. It also exposes to prolapses and hernias. Abdominal muscles protect our core and internal organs as well as the vital large blood vessels in the central body.
If you have separated abdominal muscles (the most common place for this is around and above/below the belly button), you can start rehabilitating abdominal muscle exercises. Do the test again after a few weeks of regular exercise to determine if the situation has improved, and if the gap has reduced in size (we do this together at the end of the course).
The best way to look after your children is to take care of yourself as well, as this will make you a happy, balanced, and both physically and mentally healthy mother and parent. This will help you meet your child’s needs in the best possible way.