I have several clients and friends who are currently pregnant, and when one mentioned the possibility of her abdominals separating, I thought it would be a good time to write about it here. Diastasis Recti is a separation in the right and left sides of your ab muscles. This separation can happen to anyone, but most commonly occurs during pregnancy and can stick around after the baby is born. In pregnant women, the separation occurs because of the uterus pushing against the abdominal wall and pregnancy hormones which weaken connective tissue. In most cases, the separation will not be severe and will heal itself naturally after birth. If it doesn't, there are exercises to help repair the separation.
A few things to keep in mind when thinking about preventing Diastasis Recti:
Good Posture. Sway back posture is the main culprit of premature separation. Prior to pregnancy in a sway back posture the core and gluteus muscles along with the mid trapezius in the middle back are long and weak. This incorrect posture pushes the hips and tummy forward, weakening the abdominal muscles further pre & post pregnancy. Be conscious of your posture at all times, both while sitting and standing. Your shoulders should be pulled back, head level and in line with your body, abdomen pulled in, and weight primarily on the balls of your feet.
Exercises: Avoid any exercises that increase pressure on the abdominal wall during the second and third trimesters. For example, planks or any exercise in the quadruped position. A good way to work your abs is to contract your belly button back to your spine. Remembering to do this with everything you do that may strain your abdominal muscles (i.e. laugh, sneeze, standing after lying down) is a big help in avoiding diastasis recti while pregnant.
This is a general overview of this condition and everyone is different. Please consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise regime or about your exercise routine if you are pregnant.