During pregnancy the midline of your abdominals (tummy muscles) naturally stretch with the growth of your baby to accom
modate your growing bump – Nature is quite brilliant like that! When we discuss this topic in our classes many women are surprised to hear that their abdominal muscles have actually separated together with the connective tissues and tendons. Have a look at our simple diagram to see what happens to the muscles. After having a baby many women think the bump will disappear and they will be back to where they started just before they became pregnant. This is all too evident in our celebrity culture where we are often used to seeing pop stars, footballers wives and actresses ‘snap’ back into shape and perhaps leaving the more ‘normal’ mums feeling less that happy with their ‘mummy tummy’! So let’s have a look at this in more detail.
After birth, it takes time for these muscles and other tissues to return to full function and tension and many women will still look pregnant and their tummies feel wobbly and loose – this is perfectly normal. When mums return for our Frombumps2babies’s post natal massages we offer them a ‘Mummy MOT’ this involves a visual check of their posture, debrief on their birth, detailed discussion on their pelvic floor function and any other implications that could impact on their recovery and equally most important is our Recti check to test the function of the tummy muscles. This is a simple check that involves the new mum lying down, bending her knees and the instructor will ask her to lift up her shoulders while they gently feel in the area just above the belly button for a gap in between the two bellies of the abdominal muscles – this gap is measured in fingers width. Mums are usually fascinated if a little shocked by the idea that they have their beautiful baby but also a gap in their tummy.
So why is this an issue? In simple terms the abdominal wall is part of the body’s entire core and components such as muscles, tendons, fascia, nerves , blood supply, skin etc and they all need to function optimally to enable the core to do its primary job of withstanding pressure and providing a strong foundation for movement of our ‘outer unit’ – the arms and legs. So any gap in the abdominal wall isn’t optimal as it means that the core can’t function 100% and obviously the bigger the gap the greater potential for dysfunction. Unfortunately this lack of function to transfer the ‘load’ in the abdominal wall can also go hand in hand with a leaky pelvic floor especially in a woman that has recently given birth.
Now for the solution! To return to a flatter tummy, a non-leaky Pelvic Floor and overall strength to do your job as a mum you must focus on restoring the whole inner unit of your body this means that your Diaphragm (breathing muscle), your abdominals, your Pelvic Floor and the muscles that support your spine all need to all be working optimally and together as a unit. One man down spells trouble for your better-belly, restoration, continence and strength.
The answer is not embarking on a crazy programme of sit ups and crunches or the latest fad diet but focusing on all the elements of exercise, nutrition and even relaxation to take a holistic approach to healing your post baby body. Women need to know the right type of exercises to do in the right amounts and at the right times as the wrong type of exercises can in fact do more damage.