6 Ab Exercises to Heal and Strengthen Your Postpartum Core
There are a lot of surprising changes that happen to your body when you're pregnant, like swollen gums, sharp pains in your vagina, and your feet growing. It's perfectly normal to still look pregnant after giving birth, and every mother will lose the weight at different speeds. If months have passed and you've noticed that you still look pregnant after having your child, you more than likely have ab separation called diastasis recti.
Diastasis is the separation of your rectus abdominis (abdominal) muscle, with two out of three women experiencing it. Regardless of how fit you were prior to and during your pregnancy, you can still get diastasis due to relaxin (the hormone that prepares your body for birth by relaxing ligaments and the cervix) and the inevitable pressure of the growing baby on your abdominal wall.
Your doctor can check for ab separation at your six-week check-up or you can do a test yourself:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor (the same position you're in for a glute bridge).
- Place your three middle fingers on your linea alba (the line the splits your abs into the left and right sides) above your belly button.
- Tuck your chin as you slowly lift your head off of the ground. Be sure not to do a crunch. Use your fingers to measure the space in between your abs.
- Repeat the test, placing your fingers on your belly button and below your belly button.
- A gap that is more than two and a half fingers wide when you lift your head is a sign you have diastasis.
It's extremely common to experience ab separation weeks after giving birth, and this test should be used to track separation over time. If you have a round, hard, painful bulge that looks like a cone coming from your belly button area, consult your doctor immediately.
The following exercises are meant to help rebuild, reconnect, and strengthen your core postpartum and can be done daily. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that if you had a healthy pregnancy and a vaginal delivery, you can begin to exercise a few days after giving birth. Be sure to get cleared by your physician before partaking in a postpartum workout plan and, most importantly, listen to your body.