Tummy gap after pregnancy?

12 March 2021

Tummy gap after pregnancy?

person_outlineLisa Few
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I can feel a gap in my tummy muscles.  What is it?

The medical term for tummy gap is “diastasis recti” and is a really common post natal condition.  About two out three post natal mums will have some degree of separation of their stomach muscles.  It is a widening of the two sets of rectus abdominis muscles (six pack). The split occurs at the linea alba, a band of connective tissue that runs in between the two sets of muscles. It stops providing tension and stability and sometimes you can see a doming of the muscle.  This gap compromises the body’s stability cylinder and if left untreated can cause lower back pain, urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse and hernias. 

When treating a diastasis it is important to treat the whole body as everything is connected.  A full musculoskeletal examination assesses whether there is good alignment, good connection between all of the stomach muscles and a good connection of the muscles around the pelvis.  I would definitely recommend seeing a Womens Health Physiotherapist, who can have a look at all of this and give you a rehab programme.

How do you know if you have a diastasis recti (tummy gap)?

This can easily be diagnosed by a Women’s Health Physiotherapist but you can also check yourself.

  1. Lie yourself on your back with your knees bent and roughly hip distance apart with your feet on the floor.
  2. Place on hand on your stomach and the other hand behind your head to protect and support your neck. Place your fingers down your midline just above and below your belly button.
  3. Relax your stomach muscles and the gently press your fingers down above and below your belly button.
  4. Lift your head off the floor – like an abdominal crunch.
  5. Try to feel as you lift your head off the floor if there is a gap between the muscles. Move your fingers upwards from your belly button and then move your fingers downwards from your belly button.

If you feel a gap, seeing a Women’s Health Physiotherapist can help ensure that you are doing the right things to ensure that the gap closes.

Did you know – doing intensive abdominal work post natally can make a diastasis recti (tummy gap) worse?

Two out of three post natal women have a separation of their tummy muscles, that is a lot of women! Connective tissue between these two sets of stomach muscles becomes stretched. The abdominal muscles struggle to be held in place.

Often after having a baby mums are desperate to do some abdominal work to try and get rid of their ‘mummy tummy’.  However, this can sometimes make the gap worse.  There are lots of different layers of stomach muscles and it is so important that these layers of muscles work in the right order.  If they do not work in the right order, a doming can sometimes be seen through the tummy gap.  During more intensive exercise, it is easy to hold our breath but this increases the pressure in the abdomen. This can also lead to the doming effect and prevents the gap from closing.

There are lots of exercises that can help to increase strength of the abdominal muscles safely without any doming through the gap.  However, exercises such as sit ups, crunches and plank work should be avoided initially. They can cause pressure on the pelvic floor muscles and the abdominal area causing the muscles to separate more.

Recovering from a diastasis (tummy gap) is not just about getting rid of a ‘mummy tummy’! It is about restoring the normal function of your abdominal muscles so that your body’s core is working effectively to support the body and prevent any other problems.

Lisa Few

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