*I am by no means a professional and any information is research I have carried out myself. If you think you have ab separation, speak to your GP or health visitor*
I recently had an amazing personal training session with Nicki Ryder from Fit Inside Out. It was during this that she felt my stomach for any ab separation. This was not something I had ever even heard of, and I was stunned when she went on to say that if not treated it can cause hernias in later life. Luckily I was told my abs did not separate during my pregnancy, but I was really surprised that this is not something that had ever been discussed with me when I was pregnant. As someone who is very passionate about the empowerment of women, I actually felt pretty angered by the fact that women could have something that is fairly easily rectified, but if left untreated can lead to a condition that needs surgery – and yet we aren’t told about it. I feel a feminist rant coming, but I will save that for now!
Ab separation, actually called diastasis recti, can occur during pregnancy when the stretching uterus pushes in between the two ab muscles and causes them to separate. IDEA Health & Fitness (2003) states that as many as two in three woman have some degree of diastasis recti, whilst other sources state 30%. More worryingly, they go on to state that common abdominal exercises done by many post partum exercises – such as sit ups – can actually worsen diastasis recti by strengthening the muscles in the wrong place. As stated, if left untreated this can lead to hernias and also back pain and further muscle weakness (Wilson, 2014).
You can self test for ab separation by following these steps from Wilson (2014):
“Lie on your back with on leg bent and the other straight on the floor
Place one hand behind your head, and other hand on your abdomen, with your finger tips across your midline (parallel to your waistline) at the level of your belly button
Roll your upper body off the floor into a “crunch”, making sure that your ribcage moves closer to your pelvis
Move your fingertips back and forth across your midline, feeling for the right and left sides of your rectus abdominis muscles. Test for separation both and above your belly button”
If you suspect that you have diastasis recti, don’t panic – it can generally be treated with exercise before it becomes a problem. Do avoid exercise and heavy lifting before you seek advice. Speak to a health care professional, and also consider use of a qualified personal trainer to help tailor exercises to your recovery.
Please share this article to help raise awareness for diastasis recti!
IDEA Health & Fitness (2003). Inspire Women to Fitness. IDEA Health & Fitness Association
Wilson, C. (2014). Pregnancy and Beyond! A practical guide to exercise during pregnancy. New South Wales: Limitless Health and Fitness