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Do You Have Abdominal Splitting From Pregnancy?

Watching your tummy expand is something women either like or dislike despite having a baby grow inside.

But did you know that some women’s abdominals remain intact, while other women’s abdominals split?

What is abdominal splitting?
Abdominal splitting typically appears as a “tenting” along the midline on the abdominals. You typically notice it when you sit up from a lying down position.
Not every women experiences it during pregnancy, however it is much more common than we realize. In fact, it’s most common in the third trimester and early postpartum.

Why does this happen?
It can be due to maternal hormones, genetic predisposition, weak abdominal muscles and the mechanical strain of the growing belly. 
What happens is the rectus abdominis (the main abdominal muscle) is a strap like muscle that runs from the ribs to the pelvis. It contracts to assist you from lying on your back to a seated position. The muscle consists of two vertical bands joined together by connective tissue along your midline. It is the connective tissue that stretches and causes the separation of the two vertical straps. Without proper rehabilitation of the muscle it can remain separated long after the baby arrives. 

The separation of the rectus abdominis can cause a groove or valley along the center of your abs. And if the muscle is separated greater than two to three fingers width it becomes very noticeable to others, even through clothing. If it becomes greater than five fingers width there is a higher risk of a hernia or a hole in the abdominal wall, which can require medical intervention to repair.

Abdominal discomfort can be present in the area of the separation especially when your baby steps on or kicks the area. Any kind of impact in that area can be quite uncomfortable because the protection of the abdominal organs is jeopardized by the gap between the muscle bands.

Posture can also be affected as well as your ability to effectively isolate your “corset muscles” (obliques). Your obliques wrap around and come together at the connective tissue of your midline as well. The separation can affect your ability to “draw in the abs” which can give you the appearance of a smaller waistline. 

Learning how to check for separation and minimize it during pregnancy can prevent the separation from getting too large.

Checking for Separation?
  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor (NOTE: Keep in mind that after your first trimester it is NOT recommend to lie on your back for more than thirty seconds unless you have a pillow under your right shoulder.
  • Place your fingers just above or below your belly button (you can have separation above or below the belly button, it is important to check both areas)
  • Perform an abdominal curl and press firmly with your fingers feeling for any separation between the vertical bands of the rectus abdominis (along the mid-line of your stomach!)
  • Please note: If you feel faint or light headed, roll over to your side immediately then place a pillow under your right shoulder when you lie down
  • You may notice a bulge or “tenting” along the center of the abdomen
  • Feel for the ridge on either side of the bulge
  • Measure the degree of separation or the area between the two ridges on the rectus abdominis using your fingertips. The number of fingers you can fit between the ridges determines your degree of separation.
  • If there is separation present I recommend that you modify your abdominal exercises by wrapping your arms around your belly or wrap a towel to act as a corset to provide support, holding the ends with your hands.
VERY IMPORANT: If you suspect you have abdominal separation, do NOT perform regular abdominal exercises, especially oblique work. To prevent the situation from worsening you must perform the modified abdominal exercises and NOT work your oblique’s.

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