Towards the end of pregnancy, the two large muscle sheets covering the belly sometimes separate into two halves to accommodate the growing baby. The split occurs length-ways from your belly button down to the pubic bone.
You might not have been aware of this happening, although it can feel uncomfortable: usually a stretching or “splitting” sensation. So the pregnancy joke about splitting like a ripe watermelon isn’t that far off the truth.
It’s more common in overweight women, and also when there’s more than one baby. It’s also more likely to happen in second and subsequent pregnancies.
At your 6 or 8-week postnatal appointment, your caregiver should check this for you. It’s also easy to do an abdominal separation check yourself following the instructions below and also demonstrated in the video
Abdominal separation makes your tummy bulge and can lead to chronic back pain. So if your abs have parted company, do your best to zip them together again with exercises such as wave breath in Huggies Postnatal Yoga program.
These programs have been created by: Katie Brown yoga teacher and infant massage specialist
Abdominal separation check & wave breath exercise step by step
Check yourself for abdominal separation
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor
- Slowly engage your abdominal muscles by drawing your naval to your spine and lifting your head as if you’re about to do a small sit-up
- While you’re doing this, move your fingers slowly from side to side down the centre of your abdomen
- Ideally you should be able to feel a gap of about two fingers
- If the gap is any wider than this, you may have abdominal separation
If you’re concerned, see your doctor. Repeat this test in a week’s time and monitor your progress. Go slowly and you should find your abdominal strength improves.
Wave breath exercise
- Lie on your yoga mat or rug, arms by your sides, knees bents with your feet hip-width apart and flat on the floor close to your buttocks
- Inhale deeply as you raise your arms above your head and use your abdominals, thighs and glutes to push your hips upwards towards the ceiling
- Draw your fingers back so you feel a gentle stretch in the wrists
- As you exhale, slowly release your hips down to the ground one vertebrae at a time, still keeping your arms above your head
- Then sweep your arms in a semi-circle back to your hips
- Repeat this sequence 5 more times
- Remember to keep your feet hip-width apart and parallel to one another flat on the floor
- Now extend your legs and lie on your back
- Stretch your arms back over your head and take hold of your right wrist in your left hand. Point your right toes and gently stretch the right side of your body
- Next swap sides: take hold of your left wrist in your right hand and stretch the left side of your body
- When you’ve finished, release your arms to your sides, palms facing up,close your eyes and relax
Next move onto to Huggies? Upper Body Postnatal Yoga poses and exercises
Return to full list of postnatal yoga videos
Last Published* November, 2021
*Please note that the published date may not be the same as the date that the content was created and that information above may have changed since.