What is Abdominal Separation?

What is Abdominal Separation?

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Have a look at the picture here.

It shows your abdominal muscles in a separated state. As you can see, your six-pack muscles (Rectus Abdominis) runs straight down the centre of your stomach.

The muscle originates in your breast bone at the top, and inserts into your pubic bone at the base.

It is joined together by a strong fibrous sheath called the Linea Alba.

In some pregnancies, the Linea Alba becomes a little darker in colour and is visible on your stomach.

This is called Linea Negra which simply means “dark line”.

During pregnancy, you’re probably aware that hormones will start to soften your joints, ligaments and muscles to prepare your body for labour.

It’s these hormones which also soften the Linea Alba to accommodate your growing baby bump and abdomen in front of you. The RA muscles will generally lengthen vertically up and down your stomach first.

Once your RA muscles have lengthened as far as they can go, eventually the Linea Alba may then separate.

When this separation occurs, it’s termed “diastasis”.

I guess it’s a little bit like the Linea Alba is heavy duty cling film stretching apart, if that gives you a good visualisation.

I prefer to use the word “separate” than use the word “split” here to be honest, because the RA muscles were in two parts already, before you were pregnant, you see.

A split muscle is like a torn muscle in my eyes, so if you’ve ever torn your hamstring, for example, you’ll know what this pain is like!

What happens to the abdominal muscles during pregnancy, is completely painless, you aren’t aware of it, and I like to refer to it simply as abdominal “separation”.

The separation starts at your belly button and moves either upwards or downwards depending on how the mum-to-be affected is carrying her baby.

Have you noticed that some bumps are all “front” and some bumps are quite “low”? Interesting, eh?

The RA muscles don’t separate in every pregnancy, so don’t let it concern you. It depends on a number of factors really.

The separation can take place above the belly button, below the belly button, or both, and the separation can remain postnatally either above, below, or above and below the belly button.

However, if the abdominals do shift apart during pregnancy and stay separated after birth, this means that your back is not as well supported, your pelvis is less stable and your posture will change.

While this is very common and will not cause a problem to your unborn or new baby, it may cause you to experience back pain.

Doing Pilates-based exercise during pregnancy and immediately after birth is the best thing you can do to help your muscles re-align. These are the first muscles you want to focus on training postnatally.

As an Ante/Postnatal Fitness Expert, I need to get your “core” and pelvic floor muscles strong first, before loading other abdominal muscles.

My Mummies and Buggies class can help to re-align your abdominal muscles safely (using up-to-date exercise techniques, so your workout stays safe and effective).

Can’t make a class?  Don’t worry – book a 1-2-1 postnatal individualised session with me instead where I’ll set you an individualised program.

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Claire Mockridge
Claire Mockridge is an Ante/Postnatal Fitness Expert, Pilates Teacher and Train-the-Trainer. She's worked with over 1000+ pregnant and postnatal women and enjoys empowering and educating her clients on safe and effective exercise. Claire is a Health Columnist for the Nottingham Evening Post, a Health Expert for BBC Radio Nottingham, regularly writes for the national press and is the Winner of Theo Paphitis' Small Business Sunday Award.

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