WHAT HAPPENS TO THE ABDOMINALS DURING PREGNANCY?
The six-pack muscle (Rectus Abdominis) runs from your breast bone to your pubic bone and is joined together with a strong fibrous sheath called the Linea Alba. In some pregnancies, the Linea Alba becomes a little darker in colour and is visible on your stomach. This is called Linea Negra which simply means “dark line”.
You may have heard people talk about your abdominal muscles “splitting”. Your muscles don’t “split”, because they’re already in a separated state, as they’re held together by the Linea Alba which I mentioned above. A split muscle is like a torn muscle, so if you’ve ever torn your hamstring, for example, you’ll know what this pain is like! What happens to the abdominal muscles during pregnancy, is completely painless, you aren’t aware of it, and I like to refer to it simply as abdominal “separation”.
The Rectus Abdominis stretches vertically (up and down your stomach) to accommodate baby bump at your front, and when it can’t stretch any further up and down, it then starts to separate horizontally (from left to right) – see picture.
I guess it’s a little bit like the Linea Alba is heavy duty cling film stretching apart. The muscles don’t separate in every pregnancy. It depends on a number of factors. The separation can take place above the belly button, below the belly button, or both.
Doing Pilates-based exercise and lots of pelvic floor work during pregnancy and immediately after birth is the best thing you can do to help your muscles re-align.
Why not do 5 “draw up and hold” abdominal/pelvic floor exercises now? Breathe in, filling your belly with air to prepare. Draw your tummy muscles in and draw your pelvic floor up slowly and keep holding on (like you’re stopping yourself going for a wee). Stay there and breathe in to hold. Then breathe out and slowly relax the pelvic floor/ab muscles. Repeat this again twice, throughout the day.