One in three new mums has a stom­ach-mus­cle hitch that can lead to back pain, but it’s easy to fix

Mother & Baby (Australia) - - Contents -

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).”

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