The mummy tummy has become an epidemic. And most women we see are so keen to work it off immediately. BUT – Before you do a single sit-up, you need to check you don’t have abdominal separation. The condition, known as rectus abdominus diastasis (RAD), occurs when the connective tissue that knits your abdominals together has been stretched out during pregnancy, leaving you with a gap between your abdominals.
It’s believed to affect at least a third of first-time mothers and 70 percent of mothers who have had two babies or more. Although separation is generally perceived as a cosmetic problem due to the tell-tale paunch sufferers often sport, the weakness in your abdominal wall can lead to a whole host of ailments, including back pain, pelvic floor dysfunction or even prolapse.
Who is at Risk ?
The condition is caused by excessive pressure inside your abdomen and pelvis, so while men, children and women who have never been pregnant can also suffer from RAD, it’s commonly noticed in the latter stages of a woman’s pregnancy when the body is trying to make room for a growing baby. Every single pregnant woman is thought to suffer with some degree of separation during their third trimester. All women will have some degree of RAD immediately post-birth, but for many the gap closes by itself during the days and weeks that follow childbirth. It is the women with the abnormally wide ones that we are more concerned about. Separation generally ranges from 1–8cm wide.
What Happens if it Goes Untreated ?
If you still have abdominal separation at eight weeks postpartum, it’s likely that treatment will be required to help bring your stomach muscles back together. The abdominal wall plays a crucial role in the body as it transfers load from our legs and pelvis up to our thorax and arms, so if it is not functioning in an optimal way it can lead to all sorts of issues, such as low back pain, pelvic girdle pain, issues returning to exercise and pelvic floor issues. In fact, we know that 66 percent of women that have an RAD will also have stress urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse, and we believe this is due to the loss of support with in the deep system.
How Do I Test Myself For It?
Lie down on back with your knees bent.
Place your fingers at your belly button and allow them to sink in.
Do a chest lift (stomach crunch) so your head, neck and shoulders lifts up off the floor.
Using your fingers, feel for how much distance there is from the two sides of the muscles and also how deep to goes.
A diastasis gap is measured in finger widths. A 1–2 finger width gap or less is fine and quite common, but anything more means that your core is in need of some attention.
Okay, I Have It — What Next?
The good news is, RAD is easy to test for and, in most cases, can be treated through exercise alone. However, it’s important to understand that treating RAD is a whole body fix, and not just about closing "the gap". This is the time to see a specialised Women’s health Physio but there’s plenty you can be doing at home.
If you can learn the correct posture to hold your body in — for example, avoiding an arched back and imagine your ribs remain connected to your pubic bone. Unfortunately focusing on traditional "core exercises", such as planks and sit-ups, often increase the separation. Learning to engage the correct muscles with one of our Physios throughout the day, such as when pushing the pram or lifting your baby, will have you training the abdominal muscles without even doing a work out.
Our Women’s Health Physios check your abdominal separation at our comprehensive 6 week post-natal check appointment along with assessing your pelvic floor and educating you on how to help your body through this time of change. Alternatively, if you’ve passed this point, you can book a consult (put aside an hour) to specifically check your diastasis. We use our real-time ultrasound to assess the width and depth of your separation and set out a plan to help minimise it.
Call on 9968 3424 to book an appointment or book online here
Check out more articles like this on popsugar.com.au