Recently, Baby & Me Fitness owner and fabulous bootcamp bellies instructor, Heather, wrote a blog about her growing baby bump…..and that bumps, bump!
This bump is caused by diastasis recti, which is the separation of the abdominal muscles at the body’s midline, often around the belly button or higher. This separation can create a bulge or doming out of the abdomen when doing activities (most noticeably when doing an ab crunch). It is a common condition and most women will have this during their pregnancy to some degree. After all, the uterus needs to go somewhere!
Baby & Me Fitness believes that once you get through the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (and all that yucky sickness) you should be able to continue exercising as you had pre-bump. There are some things we would advise against though, such as exercises that put the wrong kind of strain on the abdominal muscles and the pelvic floor. At first you may feel up to doing exactly what you did before, but as your uterus grows and puts pressure ‘down there’, running and high impact exercises can attribute to muscle separation.
What can you do to avoid separation?
1. Strengthen your abs without crunches. I know you love crunches, I do too, but they push pressure on your abdominals and the pelvic floor, weakening the muscles. Try working your transverse abdominals instead by exhaling and drawing the belly button towards the spine (hug your baby). You can do this while sitting, standing or even better, hands and knees. If you are still doing crunches and don’t see a ‘bump’, that’s great, keep it up! However, most fitness professionals will agree, you should stay away from full sit-ups and any twisting motions.
2. Strengthen your pelvic floor…and GLUTES?. Everyone knows about kegals but what most people don’t know is the importance of strong glutes for good pelvic floor health. Often times our pelvic floor muscles are tight and weak, pulling the tailbone under and causing a flat bum (common in runners). We need to strengthen the glute muscles to lengthen the pelvic floor and allow for proper balance in the core. Ina May Gaskin, a very well known midwife, recommends 300 deep squats per day!
3. Have great posture. Pregnancy often causes ‘sway back’ where you allow the weight of the growing uterus to pull your lower back forward, leaving your chest to stick out to keep your balance. This creates tremendous pressure on your abdomen and can further separation. Whenever you can, think about that ‘hug your baby’ exhale and bring your belly button close to your spine, especially when lifting heavy items or getting up from a laying or sitting position. On the note of getting up from a laying position, always roll to your side before getting up to avoid that ‘crunch’ motion.
4. Find good support. If separation has happened and it’s causing you great discomfort, you can always opt for a stylish support belt (they do exist!!) for some added support. This not only supports the belly, but it also pulls the stomach back into a better position, making it easier for baby to be in the best position for birth.
It is important to know that once your baby is born, the separation does not just disappear – sorry! In fact, trying to flatten that mummy tummy too fast, too soon can actually exacerbate the problem. Start off slow with the ‘hug your baby’ exhales and when you’re ready, come join us in our postpartum classes. Our teachers are there to assess the separation and determine what exercises are safe for you!
Heather Jones has her degree in Kinesiology and is current co-owner of Baby and Me Fitness. She is expecting her second child in October.
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