We here at Skinny Mom get questions on Facebook, Twitter, and tons of emails every day asking fitness questions. Trying to get back to everyone is often hard because there just isn’t enough time to fit everything in! For this reason, Brooke Griffin is going to try a Q&A on her blog each week, so if you have a question, send it her way and Brooke will try her best to share and inform.

This next question gets asked frequently; it is a need-to-know for moms, expecting mothers, and anyone who plans on getting pregnant in the future.

rectus abdominis

Photo Credit: CoreConcepts.com

Question: “Before baby I had a strong core and defined abs. All of the baby weight is gone and the abs are defined, but they don’t meet in the middle — there is a significant gap. Did you experience this or know of others who did? Any suggestions?”

Answer: First off, congrats on getting the baby weight off! It sounds as if you have some great muscle tone in your abdominals which is amazing and for that you should be very proud. The gap you are referring to is scientifically known as diastasis recti — the separation of the two halves of the rectus abdominis muscle in the middle of the belly. This is a common issue and and it is correctable. Diastasis can occur at any time during pregnancy, most often in your last trimester. Pregnancy can lead to this common condition because of increased pressure and tension placed on the abdominal wall.

>> Read More: Top 5 Best Exercises for Expectant Mamas

While the separation usually heals on its own over time, it’s very likely that when you begin strenuous abdominal exercises before the diastasis has healed, this problem can be exacerbated. This is why it is very important not to resume abdominal exercises for 8 to 10 weeks after delivery, especially if you have diastasis.

To check for separation, lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor (like you are going to do a crunch). Raise your head and shoulders off of the floor and place your finger tips in the hollow space 1 to 2 inches below your bellybutton, fingers pointing toward your feet. Lift your head as high as you can and see if you feel a ridge protruding from the midline of your abdomen. Visible signs of diastasis include a “stomach bulge” and “pooched belly”.

>> Read More: Stay Strong During Your Pregnancy with Amanda Strong

If you experience diastasis after childbirth here are a couple of ways to start closing the separation:

Avoid strenuous abdominal exercises. Do not do any heavy lifting, stretching yoga poses, and do not perform abdominal exercises with your back resting on an exercise ball. When coughing intensely, place hands across belly and support your abdomen, holding it together.

Exercise to close the gap:

  • Lie with a towel underneath your lower back. Then lift your head and neck up off the floor just enough so that the abdominal muscles are engaged. As you do this, pull the ends of the towel together across your abdomen to pull the muscles together. The idea is that the muscles are gently strengthened as the towel retrains them back into a more natural position. This is the treatment that is recommended most by physical therapists. It works best if the diastasis recti is not severe and if there is a minimal amount of belly fat.
  • You can also perform reverse crunches while pulling your lower stomach toward your spine and lift legs up at a 45-degree angle from the floor and pull lower abdomen toward your spine; hold this position for 10 seconds while breathing deeply.

>> Read More: Moms and Finding Time to Workout

Hope this helps and good luck training! Have more questions? Send them to [email protected]