Tummy muscle separation in pregnancy is a hot topic at the moment in pre- and post-natal healthcare and rehabilitation. As a physio here in Henley it is also frequently discussed by the clinic team. Also known as Rectus Abdominis Diastasis (RAD), Divarication of the Recti or Rectus Divarification, many women get worried about their tummy muscle gap both during pregnancy and once they have had their babies. I’m often asked questions by my clients such as: Have I got a gap? How wide is it? What can I do to close the gap? Can physio help?
Here are some of the facts. RAD is a widening of the gap between the 2 sections of the Rectus Abdominis (or 6 pack) muscle. The split occurs along a line of connective tissue called the Linea Alba at the front of the tummy and some experts think that 100% of women have some level of separation of their tummy muscles in the third trimester of pregnancy. Factors such as genetics, previous pregnancies, how stretchy your soft tissues are, posture and movement patterns can all impact a RAD.
Improving a RAD is not all about ploughing through a load of tummy crunches. In fact, these can make a RAD worse by further widening it if done too soon after you’ve had your baby. Scientific evidence also shows that for many women the gap they have 8 weeks after they’ve had their babies will remain unchanged at 1 year postnatally if no appropriate exercises are done to help draw the edges of the tummy muscles back towards each other. This is where as a physio we can help, whether in the Henley Practice Clinic ir in the comfort of your own home.
So what exercises are appropriate? In the early days after having a baby the abdominal organs are still settling back into their normal positions having been significantly squeezed and pushed around to accommodate the growing baby. So mums should focus on their pelvic floor exercises and lower tummy muscle activation, namely Transversus Abdominis. It is essential to get these deep core muscles firing back up to help support the spine and pelvis during the early weeks of motherhood when there is a lot of strain on the back caring for a newborn. This will help draw the edges of the Rectus Abdominis back towards each other, thus reducing a RAD.
But it’s not all about the numbers and this is an important point that is often forgotten. It is now becoming evident that the tension (or lack of tension) of the Linea Alba tissue is as important in core function as the size of your RAD. So get your tummy muscles checked at Henley Practice by Sarah Cary, a specialised post-natal physiotherapist as part of a Mummy MOT appointment. I will give you a personalised rehabilitation program to improve your RAD appropriately through exercise to help ensure you have a fully functioning, stable and strong core.