Today's story is about Natalie and abdominal separation - which is also known by the name of diastasis recti.
Natalie has always loved exercise and enjoys staying fit and lean. Most women have what they consider their best feature – it could be their eyes, legs, smile or booty. For Natalie it was her flat tummy. Once she was past the 'I just look bloated or ate too much at dinner' stage of pregnancy, she embraced her widening waistline as a sign of a healthy growing and much longed for baby. However, she was not ready for the abdominal separation that began to occur… and relatively early.
Google helped her identify the weird bulging shape down the midline of her tummy – also known as the linea alba, as 'peaking' or 'doming'. She had found out some good information – putting too much pressure on her abdominal wall was ill advised and should be avoided, and some not so useful information – abdominal separation was 'abnormal' and something to fear. Since she was already sticking to suitable core exercises for pregnancy, she arrived at her training session exasperated about what to, and what not to do, to safeguard her treasured abs.
Whilst abdominal separation is normal and most pregnant women will experience it to some degree, at some point, during their pregnancy, there are exercises to stay away from and techniques to better manage it. During our training session Natalie and I went through all the pregnancy safe abdominal exercises, checking whether she could control the pressure on the abdominal wall and linea alba throughout the movement. Most exercises just needed to be performed at a slower pace with more control, through a smaller range of motion or with some tweaking of technique – not an easy thing to do for someone who has always approached her workouts with gusto. Abdominal and core training during pregnancy certainly requires a change of headspace.
Ultimately, my goal was to ensure that Natalie felt confident to continue training her core until the birth, not give up on abdominal exercises altogether. So her core was better able to support her back during pregnancy and motherhood, protect her pelvic floor in the present and future, and most importantly for Natalie, help to restore her abdominal wall and bikini-worthy tummy post-natally.