October 03, 2017 at 4:43 PM
Did you know that during pregnancy your abdominal muscles can stretch by up to 50%!
It’s not surprising then that about 1/3 of all pregnant women experience a separation of the superficial abdominal muscles known as diastasis recti in the second or third trimester.
The muscle affected is the rectus abdominis otherwise known as your ‘six-pack’ muscle which runs vertically down your stomach. In between the two halves of the rectus is connective tissue called the linea alba which forms the midline of your stomach. During pregnancy, this connective tissue softens and as you grow not only does it stretch but your uterus pushes up against the abdominal wall causing the left and right sides of the rectus to pull apart.
How to check for diastasis recti:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground
- Place your fingers just above your belly button pointing down towards your pelvis
- Lift your head and shoulders up off the floor to contract to abdominals while feeling for separation under your fingers, you should be able to feel the left and right edges of rectus abdominis
Some degree of separation occurs in all pregnancies and a one to two finger gap is usually not problematic however significant diastasis recti can cause problems such as low back or pelvic pain and if it is not controlled prior to a subsequent pregnancy you can be at risk of an umbilical hernia.
The good news is that some simple exercises that focus on the deeper layer of abdominal muscles can help to prevent and lessen the effects of the separation while you are pregnant and reduce the gap postpartum. Clinical Pilates is one great way of safely strengthening your abdominals while pregnant so if this sounds like you don’t hesitate to contact Auckland Physiotherapy for more information.
Michelle has completed specialised training in the area of Women’s Health physiotherapy including the treatment of incontinence and pelvic floor dysfunction. She is passionate about empowering women to take control and keep fit and healthy throughout pregnancy and beyond and finds this area extremely rewarding.