TAKE THE TUMMY TEST
One in three new mums has a stomach-muscle hitch that can lead to back pain, but it’s easy to fix
How to check for and fix muscle separation
The pressure of your growing baby can create a gap between the muscles at the front of your tummy.
When you’re up to your ears in nappies and never-ending feeds, it’s completely natural to prioritise your baby’s needs over your own. But if you’ve got a minute to spare right now, use it to take our simple health test (right).
When you’re pregnant, the pressure of your growing baby can create a gap between the muscles at the front of your tummy – and these muscles don’t always spring back naturally after birth. It’s not painful, so you probably don’t even know it’s happened, but it means your back and organs aren’t supported, which can cause lower-back pain and a pronounced tummy.
Postnatal exercise expert Wendy Powell says this tummy issue affects an estimated one-third of first-time mothers and a whopping 70 per cent of mothers who’ve had two babies or more.
“It affects the muscle that runs vertically from your breastbone to your pubic bone,” she says. “The gap between the two sections of this muscle widens, so it’s commonly noticed in the later stages of pregnancy. All pregnant woman are thought to get it to some degree during their third trimester, and there may be a significant gap after childbirth – but for many this gap closes by itself over the following days and weeks.”
If you still have a significant gap eight weeks or more after the birth of your baby, your stomach muscles will need some extra help to come back together and get back into alignment. The good news is, in most cases, exercise alone will fix the problem. You’ll need to realign your body to relieve the pressure and identify, engage and strengthen the right muscle and tissue deep in your abdomen.
Until you’ve regained your core strength, it would be wise to avoid sit-ups or any other high-intensity exercises that apply pressure in this area. “It’s never too late to treat this condition,” says Wendy. “And don’t worry if the gap doesn’t close completely – that’s OK provided you’ve strengthened your midline muscles with this breathing exercise (right).”