Abdominal separation may occur during and after pregnancy if the pressure of your growing baby weakens your stomach muscles. Known also as diastasis recti, abdominal separation can be managed with specialised toning exercises adapted in physiotherapy sessions or with a personal trainer. Let’s take a look at some of the symptoms that may indicate your abdominal muscles have separated.
What Causes Abdominal Separation?
You have a long rectangular muscle in your abdomen, which runs up the length of your chest to your pelvis, parallel to each other and just below the surface of the skin. This is one large muscle, the rectus abdominis, which has a right and left side. The two sides are joined by a fibrous structure
During pregnancy, your body releases certain hormones that make your body more flexible, especially your muscles. This effect, coupled with the pressure that your baby bump places on your stomach muscles, can cause them to drift apart. Statistically, women who have had more than one pregnancy are more likely to experience separation of the abdominal muscles, and this risk increases if the mother is expecting twins or triplets. It may also be more likely to occur if a small woman is carrying a larger-than-average baby.
Stretching of the muscles of the abdomen is necessary, to prevent them from tearing while you carry your baby. It only becomes problematic when they stay separated, as this does not provide enough support for your back.
Having a strong core prior to pregnancy may help to protect you against abdominal separation during and after pregnancy. Don’t stop exercising during pregnancy either; rather speak to a professional about modifying your exercise routine so you can stay strong and active. This makes postpartum recovery much easier too.
Some of the common causes of diastasis recti include
- The age of the mother
- A large baby
- A second third or fourth pregnancy
- Gaining weight during pregnancy
- Having multiple births
- Lifting heavy weights, especially during the last trimester
What Are The Most Common Abdominal Separation Symptoms?
Abdominal separation symptoms may include
A Visible Gap Between The Two Muscles
You may notice a depression develop between the two panels of muscle. It may be more noticeable when you lie down and tilt your head up, putting strain on your abdominal muscles.
A Bulge In Your Midriff
Some women experience a canoe-shaped bulge that appears in the midriff when they engage their abdominal muscles.
Lower Back Pain May Be A Problem
Strong abdominal muscles and a strong core provide an important support structure for your back. If your stomach muscles are weak, you might experience lower back pain on a frequent basis.
Bloating And Constipation
Another of the abdominal separation symptoms is bloating and constipation, which may require separate treatment.
How To Manage Abdominal Separation?
It is said that one in three women still complain about the separation of the abdominals 12 months after the delivery of their baby so you should not assume that the problem will self resolve. Working on it yourself may speed up recovery and strengthen the muscles faster.
How Can Physiotherapy Help?
Your physiotherapist will be able to make a diagnosis based on the information you provide and a visual examination. Your physio may even measure the degree of separation between the two sides of the muscle.
You can expect to be asked a few questions about your health, wellbeing and fitness, to enable your physio to create an exercise plan for you. Initially, you may need to make some adjustments to your life
- You might need to restrict the weight of objects you pick up for a certain period
- Learning how to get out of bed differently, without straining your abdominal muscles
- Avoid sit-ups and crunches until you have regained some strength in your abdominals
- In a physiotherapy session, you will also get input on how to cough and sneeze and even laugh so you don’t strain the muscles
- Become more aware of your posture at all times and try to keep a straight back when sitting and standing. This engages your abdominal muscles and forces them to work harder. Slouching and poor posture allows them to stay weak.
- If you weren’t told during pregnancy, remember to always bend at the knees when picking something up so that you do not strain your back
The point of doing physiotherapy is to show you how to do the exercises safely, and build up your strength so that you can repeat them at home. Progressive exercises can help you to build strength and flexibility in your core so that it can carry your body with ease.
Physiotherapy To Help Heal Abdominal Separation
When doing your physiotherapy sessions, remember that slow and steady movements are best as you need to control your body for the duration of the exercise.
Exercises that encourage twisting of the torso are especially good for encouraging the two sides of the muscle to come back together.
To have your abdominal separation symptoms evaluated please get in touch: (02) 9884 9300.