Abdominal separation - Do we really need to mind the gap?
Updated: Apr 24
So we know that a gap between the left and right 'six pack' muscles is a pretty common finding after pregnancy, but do we really need to mind that gap?
A separation of the superficial layer of abdominal muscle (named rectus abdominus) HAS to occur to allow your bump to grow. After baby has arrived, your amazing body will do its thing and start to heal down the middle. We know that healing continues for around 8 weeks after delivery, but that after that time any further improvement in the tummy will only occur with appropriate exercise and lifestyle choices.
When we assess 'the gap' we are looking at so much more than just the distance between the two muscles. That is one factor, but we are also considering the extent of any muscle tone in the deepest, stability providing layer as well as the depth of the gap.
We also know that as things improve, the gap between the superficial muscles may well stay the same. It is possible that functionality of the core can improve, in the presence of a gap, so it's not our only measure of whether someone is making a good postnatal recovery or not. We need to consider the tummy as part of the whole core unit, and consider any pelvic floor symptoms, low back pain, and ability to perform certain tasks when weighting up if someone is 'better' or has progressed with their treatment.
Our 'mid-line', as we Physio's call it may well have a gap, but if there is good muscle tone below this and the gap is not so deep - good stuff! Or your gap might not be so wide, but the mid-line is deep, soft and squidgy - not so good!
At the end of the day, no, we don't need to mind the gap so much but instead perhaps ask yourself.....do you get back ache? Do you leak urine? Can you pick up your little one without it hurting or passing wind unexpectedly? How do you feel after a busy day on your feet? Have you any symptoms of prolapse?
These are all better indicators of core health than how many fingers can you fit in your tummy gap!
If you would like some expert guidance to assist your pelvic floor and abdominal recovery, you can access this via my online Physio led postnatal pilates classes. I'll teach you modified pilates exercises that are specifically designed for the postnatal population, drawing on my many years of clinical experience as a Chartered Physiotherapist. We can pave your way back to running, fitness classes and jumping without pelvic discomfort and leaking, through postnatal rehab.
Free trials are available should you wish to try a class with me. Further details on my online postnatal classes can be found here.
Mother Nurture Pilates | Physiotherapist led Antenatal & Postnatal Pilates classes