What happens to my abdominals during pregnancy and childbirth?
As your belly grows during pregnancy, your abdominal muscles stretch and change. Your deepest layer of abdominals (TVA or Transverse Abdominis), acts like a corset which wraps around from your spine and joins via a tendon in the front called the linea alba. This layer has a close relationship to your breathing and pelvic floor muscles – two key elements of abdominal connection and core strength. During pregnancy, this layer stretches and thins which can impact this relationship. This is what we refer to as diatasis recti or ab separation.
Therefore, rebuilding your TVA and finding the connection between your abdominals, breath and pelvic floor is an important process in your postpartum recovery. Finding your abdominal connection post-birth is crucial to rebuilding your core strength.
How do I reconnect my abdominals?
First and foremost, use the first few weeks post-birth (before you have clearance from your doctor to resume exercise) to spend time on the floor with your bub and focus on your breathing. Here are some ways to do this:
- Lay on your back on the floor / mat / towel with your feet up on a couch. Inhale, letting your belly expand naturally. As you exhale, focus on contracting your abdominals (TVA) like a corset being drawn together at the front. Make sure your spine and pelvis is aligned, and maintain small gaps under your neck and lower back, this is your neutral spine position.
- Enjoy ‘Tummy Time’ – not only is ‘Tummy Time’ great for your baby – it provides you with great feedback during your breathing. Lay on your stomach with your hands under your head, inhale into your belly, you will feel the pressure into the ground and movement through your ribs as they expand, as you exhale continue that connection of contracting TVA.
- The next progression is to move up into the crawl position of 4pt kneeling – hands and knees hip distance apart with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Maintain this same breathing focus, expanding and contracting your abdominals as you inhale and exhale.
Everyone will have a different pre and postnatal journey – some experience no separation and others significant. No matter how your body responds to pregnancy, everyone can benefit from reconnecting your abdominals post birth.
Once you receive clearance from your doctor to return to exercise, you want to focus on connecting and strengthening your deep abdominal layers – TVA, internal obliques and other core muscles. These muscles lengthen and contract (shorten) as you breathe. Begin by focusing on this contraction and connection to support your movement.
The pelvic curl is a great exercise to start, with a focus on alignment, mobility and breath – it gives you the opportunity to incorporate this connection into your movement. Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor, knees bent and hip distance apart. Your arms are long by your side and your neck is in neutral, chin slightly tucked. Inhale to prepare and on the exhale, feel the contraction and connection to these deep abdominal layers. Maintain this connection as you begin the movement. Through consistent practice, you will start to reconnect your abdominals and build strength and tone in your core.
Fluidform’s specialised Pre & Postnatal programs are designed to guide you through each stage of your pregnancy through to your postnatal recovery. These workouts aim to reconnect your abdominals and realign your body, to help rebuild your strength, tone and confidence post-birth.
Your core is your central powerhouse, which impacts your balance, stability and the way you move your body. A strong core will help to improve your posture, overall muscular performance and prevent long-term injuries across your entire body.
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