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Abdominal separation: why isn’t it healing?

You’re doing ‘everything right’. You’re doing ‘all’ the exercises. And everything you’ve been told to do. By the book.

And yet … nope.  Your stomach hasn’t got a lot better.

OK, let’s start from the beginning.

For your baby to grow, your abdomen needs to be able to stretch outwards – and it does! This includes your six-pack (that gets stretched apart) and your linea alba – the connective tissue that holds your six-pack together.  The linea alba is what we need to focus on in particular, because – after the baby is born – it is weak, thin and stretched out, and that’s why you get abdominal separation and can also feel the separation.

You may find that:

  • When you put your fingers into the separation, the area feels soft and spongy.
  • In some cases, your fingers disappear and you think you can feel your bowels moving (not good).
  • You have constant pain in your lower back.
  • You may even wet yourself.

If you continue to have these symptoms despite doing all your exercises, what could possibly be wrong?

You’re not paying attention to how you’re standing …

✅ … when you’re carrying your child

✅ … when you’re using a baby carrier

✅ … or when you’re sitting down.

Take a look at the picture: do you lean into your hips when you carry your child? Do you push your buttocks under you to balance? Or: do you carry your child on one hip, putting all your weight on to one leg? And when you sit – do you push your stomach outwards as shown in the picture below?

It’s time for a rethink and to pay more attention to how you stand, walk and sit. Because that affects healing more than you might think. Those are the basics. If you don’t do the basics, no exercises in the world will help you.

How can I fix this?

 Read about posture here

 Or Abdominal separation and baby carriers: how baby carriers can interfere with healing

You’re not paying attention to your breathing

When people get stressed, they breathe with their chest. This is what actually happens when people breathe: on inhalation through the nose, both the chest and the stomach expand; and on exhalation, the stomach is pulled towards the spine and the pelvic floor is pulled inwards. When you are pregnant, you lose the connection between the pelvic floor, deep abdominal muscles and back muscles, and the diaphragm. Your breathing becomes shallower (not surprising as the baby is pushing on all the internal organs including the diaphragm). After giving birth, it’s important to get back to breathing correctly, where you breathe with your chest and your stomach.

 You’re constipated
Errr … You might be wondering what I mean. Think of it this way: your stomach and your tendons are stretched – we want to remove pressure from them by any means possible. When you are constipated/bloated, that’s exactly what happens: your intestines press against your stomach muscles and the tendons from the inside. The tendons have no chance of healing and becoming more stable.

Solution: for bloating check to see if you have any allergies, i.e. lactose. Or if you are constipated – you need to increase your fluid intake or get more fibre into your diet. Don’t go all out if you are breastfeeding as it may affect your baby’s tummy too – make changes gradually. A good start is to add fibre husks to your porridge – 1 teaspoon is enough.

 You’re exercising in the wrong way
What does that mean?

You skip abdominal rehab and pick up where you left off before you were pregnant. You jump into deadlifts, squats and running without learning how to regain contact with your core. Your core isn’t ready for that much stress all at once, and there’s a good chance you’ll exacerbate the separation.

Solution: start small with stability exercises. At Trainimal Woman, we are very experienced when it comes to coaching new mothers.

Some other things to think about:

✅ Don’t stress about closing the separation at any cost – you don’t need to have another number to fixate on (in addition to weight). A 2-cm separation is normal and something you can live with without any problem.

✅ Your whole day matters: take a look at the illustration. Each point affects how well the separation will heal.

Photo iStockphoto

Illustration Trainimal Woman

Updated January 7, 2022

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