The nine months of pregnancy leading up to the delivery of a new life is an exciting, yet challenging experience. Pregnancy can take a considerable toll on your body in many ways. Not the least of which is the appearance of your abdominals. While some women’s body’s bounce back relatively quickly after pregnancy, other women experience a condition known as abdominal wall diastasis or abdominal wall muscle separation. This is where the main abdominal muscle known as the rectus abdominis separates at the midline. This can not only cause the abdominal region to protrude but also increases the risk of developing chronic back pain.
What causes abdominal wall diastasis? During pregnancy, the pressure of the baby’s head pushing against the abdominal wall can cause excessive pressure on the connective tissue and musculature resulting in abdominal separation. This is particularly likely to occur in smaller, thinner women and women who undergo multiple pregnancies. Changing hormone levels can also cause some thinning and weakening of the connective tissue and abdominal musculature which can contribute to this problem.
Surprisingly, many women who have abdominal wall diastasis aren’t even aware of it. They may attribute the bulge in their abdominal region to excess fat and may attempt to lose weight to correct the problem. Unfortunately, this will have no effect if there is true abdominal separation.
How can you tell if you have abdominal wall diastasis? You may be able to visualize the separation by lying on the floor on a mat with your knees bent as if you’re preparing to do a sit up. Lift your head up to your chest as you flex your abdominal muscles into a modified crunch position. Reach your hand down and see if you can feel a separation in the midline around the level of you navel. If the degree of separation is more than two fingers wide, chances are you have abdominal separation.
What can be done to treat abdominal wall diastasis? Although exercise can help with this condition, you need an exercise program designed specifically to correct this problem. If you do standard abdominal exercises, particularly crunches, you can make the abdominal separation worse. It’s also important that reconditioning of the abdominal muscles begin as soon as possible after giving birth. The longer you wait, the less likely the abdominal separation can be successfully corrected.
If you believe you have abdominal separation related to pregnancy, the best plan is to see your doctor to determine the degree of separation. Ask your doctor to refer you to a personal trainer who is knowledgeable about this condition. An experienced personal trainer can guide you through the appropriate exercises to help correct the abdominal separation without doing further damage.
So if you’ve undergone a recent pregnancy and think that abdominal bulge is just excess weight or a “pot belly”, you may want to reconsider. It could be abdominal wall diastasis.