Abdominal separation – talk about difficult! Becky recently wrote an article for The Glow and Mamamia about how to avoid an abdominal separation, but I thought I’d give you my personal account of what happens if you do actually get one!
Let me rewind for you. When I was pregnant with my first son, I had never even heard of an abdominal separation. It wasn’t until after I’d given birth that the physio running my Pilates class asked if I’d been checked for one.
I said, “Excuse me? Check me for a what?”
She then explained to me what an abdominal separation was and my eyes nearly popped out of my head. I kept everything crossed that I didn’t have one. It sounded absolutely awful and painful as all hell.
I had images of a tummy being busted open and just remaining flabby and loose forever! How could a person function with one? So I lay on the floor with my eyes shut, praying that I wouldn’t have an abdominal separation as the physio felt around my tummy and inspected me.
Yay! I didn’t have one!! I was so relieved. I felt confident I’d get myself back into shape, no problems at all. Phew!
Fast forward 3 years. I was aware of what an abdominal separation was when I was pregnant with twins. My twins were very healthy! I knew when I was about 20 weeks that my tummy was going to get bigger than I could have ever imagined.
Around the 30 week mark, my carrying area was feeling huge, very tight and I started to feel a pain down the middle of my tummy. It was an unusual feeling. Tight and uncomfortable. As my pregnancy progressed, that tightness and pain seemed to occur more frequently, particularly if any pressure was placed on my abdominals. When I was standing up from a low seat or getting up out of the car, I needed to use my abdominals to help me stand up. By the end of my pregnancy, I looked like a Swiss ball on legs!
From behind you couldn’t really tell I was pregnant (apparently) but if I turned around quickly, I could knock you over with my tummy from the other side of the room. At that stage, the tight pain that I’d felt down the centre of my tummy really didn’t go away. I knew for sure that I my worst fear had materialised as an abdominal separation. The abdominal muscles had separated and now it was a matter of finding out how far.
It’s funny because at the time I didn’t really care too much as I really loved being pregnant.
As I’ve mentioned previously, the twins were born at 3kg each and my obstetrician estimated that my muscles had to stretch 1 metre to accommodate them! Can you believe that?!
I couldn’t, although looking at me when I was pregnant, I’m sure my husband had other ideas. Thankfully, he didn’t say anything.
I felt very different after having the twins to when I had my first son. It felt like my tummy muscles were asleep and weren’t responding to anything I’d ask them to do. I swear it seemed like when I lay on my back, my tummy muscles would just flop and lay on either side of the bed next to me.
The moment of truth finally arrived when Becky said she’d check my separation. She confirmed that I had an abdominal separation. But then she paused. She had one hand as she would normally do on my tummy to measure my separation.
She felt around for a little while, paused, felt a little more and then she leaned across to put her other hand on my tummy. I knew this was not good. She had to use both of her hands to measure my separation! I’d totally prepared myself for the fact that I had a separation but I had not prepared myself for how big it would actually be. After what seemed like an eternity, Becky was smiling. I’m sure she said a lot of encouraging things although at the time I could not focus on anything but hearing about my separation.
Finally, I was told my abdominal separation was 8 centimeters. Nothing could prepare me for that.
I won’t lie to you, I was devastated to hear that I had an 8cm separation. I could not imagine how I would ever recover from this without surgery. There were so many things that I couldn’t do for safety reasons at the risk of hurting my abdominal muscles even further. I couldn’t figure out how I was going to workout effectively to restore my body.
Luckily, Becky helped me in talking me through my whole body mechanics and what was going on. It was so important to know how to lift things properly, to get out of bed safely, to breastfeed with good posture, and even how to get off the lounge. So many things to help prevent my separation from worsening and give me a chance to recover. Any movement that caused my tummy to dome was a big no-no. Becky said it was my body telling me to stop or “don’t forget to activate your core”.
The other key thing for me was doing safe exercises which were prescribed by Becky to specifically improve my core strength and zip up my abdominals and draw them back together. By sticking to the plan, I gradually started to feel better, and I felt like I could function like a normal person again. Eventually I could even lift my twin stroller in and out of the car which was kind of important if I ever wanted to get out of the house!
After a number of months, Becky measured my separation again. Becky went to use both hands, but then pulled one hand away and she looked up at me with a huge smile. My separation was almost non-existent! I asked her to repeat that as I thought I’d been hearing things. I couldn’t believe it.
I’ve had a lot of people ask if I did 20 minutes of exercise every single day to achieve these results. My answer to that is “hell no”!
I’m like most other mums. Of course I have the best of intentions and plan to workout on most days but some days for what ever reason it just doesn’t happen. I did make a commitment to myself though. I decided that even if I could not do a 20 minute workout or fit my cardio in, I would always do 5 or 10 minutes of something most days. 5 minutes of something is better than 5 minutes of nothing – even if it’s just a few core exercises or some stretches, it’s important just to keep the habit up of doing a little of something each day.
If you’re reading this and you’re pregnant, or thinking of having a baby, I hope I haven’t scared you. The purpose of me sharing my story is to let you know that no matter how bad you think things are, there are always things you can do to improve your situation. The main thing is to get solid advice from the experts and ensure you exercise safely. Don’t be hard on yourself or wonder why you haven’t bounced back into shape like some of the celebrities we see in magazines. We are all different and we all have different stories and different challenges. Listen to your body and take small steps to achieving your long term goals.