5 ways to reduce the strain on your tummy muscles in pregnancy
You may well have heard of pregnancy related abdominal separation or ‘diastasis recti’, which is a thinning of the connective tissue down the centre of the abdominal wall (the ‘linea alba’) - where the abs join together.
This blog is about how you can lessen the strain on this already under stretch tissue, to avoid overloading it. I won’t go as far as to say to ‘prevent’ a separation, because what we know about diastasis from the research is that it is a physiologically normal event of pregnancy. Just as your belly gets bigger, your breasts grow and you gain weight. So too will you get a degree of abdominal separation in your third trimester, to allow space for your baby to grow.
Most women recover from this without it being a big deal, but for some it goes hand in hand with back pain, pelvic health issues and a dissatisfaction with the appearance of their tummy.
It makes sense to me therefore, that in pregnancy we can and should try to avoid over stretching the abdominals. The Linea Alba is under enough stretch and load from your bump - why add more?!
If you notice in day to day movement that your tummy goes into a strange pointy, cone shape - you are definitely overloading it with that movement/position. Try these strategies during your day to day activities to avoid seeing your bump go pointy....
1. Getting into bed. Start by sitting down on the bed then, in one simultaneous movement, lower your head to the pillow by leaning on your elbow and lift your feet onto the bed. You should end up lying on your side. Getting out of bed - do the reverse of this. Sitting up/lying straight back will likely produce a pointy bump!
2. Getting up from sitting. Shuffle yourself forwards so poised and ready to come into standing, take a breath in, exhale and while coming into standing continually breathe out. Use your arms to assist on an arm rest if possible.
3. Getting into the bath. Use your arms to take your weight as you recline, and once your body is leaning back against the bath relax then. Or just shower! Getting out - if it’s safe to do so consider if you are able to roll carefully onto all fours then come into standing from here. You may want a non slip mat!
4. Lifting. Toddlers, shopping, prams....we do have to lift. But if you can - avoid where possible. When you do have to, try and co-ordinate the lift with a continuous exhale during the lift.
5. Re-evaluate your pregnancy exercise plan. Our pre-pregnancy exercises need adjusting to accommodate growing bumps and changing needs. While abdominal exercises in pregnancy are a great idea - the suitable ones at this time are most likely things you will have never done before! Using exercises like crunches/sit ups/planks in pregnancy places too much strain on the linea alba down the centre and should be avoided for now.
If you would like some more specific guidance on pregnancy exercise, I offer a 4 week pregnancy Pilates course for ladies in their second and third trimester, in Leighton Buzzard.
If you are suffering from low back pain, pelvic/hip pain in pregnancy, reduced mobility or you are leaking urine now and again.....this is the class for you! Participate in exercises specifically designed to help with pelvic girdle pain and tone the abdominals to reduce the extent of pregnancy related abdominal separation.
This course will leave Mums-to-be feeling energised, stronger, more flexible and definitely more knowledgeable! Having made a few friends along the way. Learn how to do meaningful, functional pelvic floor exercises which will enhance your pelvic health, not just in pregnancy but beyond. We will work all the areas needed to be strong in pregnancy and stretch and release areas known to get tight and stiff.
More class info on the Antenatal class page, or get in touch with Jo by phone or email.