Pregnancy and birth are joyous times in a woman’s life, as we anticipate the arrival of our babies. Unfortunately, pregnancy and birth can sometimes put too much strain on our bodies, and we can be left a little worse for wear 'down there'. Heba Shaheed outlines the three most common issues new mothers face: abdominal separation or “mummy tummy”, pelvic organ prolapse, and incontinence.
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Abdominal separation (diastasis recti)
During pregnancy or labour, the abdomen can stretch to a point where the linea alba, a membrane between the abdominal muscles, can split. This is normal and allows for your baby and your uterus to grow. The degree of separation can vary from woman to woman, based on hormone changes, age, genetics, body type and size, size of baby, multiple babies, repeat pregnancies, etc. Abdominal separation is very common in pregnant women, with 2 out of 3 women having some degree of it. It is acceptable to have a separation of less than 2cm, which isn’t too deep. However if the separation is more than 2.5cm and deep, this will need support and strengthening. The gap should shrink after birth with time, and can be helped with an abdominal support – but this should only be worn in first 3 weeks after birth. After that, it is incredibly important to strengthen the core muscles with functional exercise, with a focus on breathing through the diaphragm, and engaging the pelvic floor and deep tummy muscles.
Heba Shaheed is a women’s health physiotherapist and the founder of The Pelvic Expert. She supports pregnant women, mothers and women with chronic pelvic pain, providing online pelvic floor physiotherapy and exercise programs.