Assessing Your Abdominal Needs
Before any abdominal workout in pregnancy, it is important to know where you're starting from. If you had great abdominal muscles prior to pregnancy, you may worry about the loss of tone or definition. While it is true that your waist and abdomen do disappear during pregnancy, the muscles that you have attained are able to maintain tone and fitness, while providing you with a stable body.
If you've never really given your abdominal muscles much thought, now might be the time to start. An important first step is to recognize any problems you currently have with your abdominal muscles.
It is highly recommended that you check your rectus muscles along the central seam, directly down the center of your abdominal muscle, for a separation, known as a diastasis recti. This condition can occur for many reasons, pregnancy being one of them. However, you can work on this diastasis recti during pregnancy to help lessen its effects and decrease the width.
No matter what anyone tells you, the truth is that there is no cure or absolute prevention for stretch marks. A well-toned body, good nutritional status, and well-hydrated skin all help in the fight against stretch marks, although genetics will win every time. Avoid the magic cures that promise miracle cures or prevention treatment.
To check for the diastasis recti, begin by lying on your back with your knees bent. Slowly raise your head and shoulders, stretching your arms toward your knees. Place the fingers of one hand horizontally just above your belly button, in the center, near the seam of your muscles (see FIGURE 10-1). You will know you are in the right spot because you can feel the abdominal muscles tighten on each side. Make note of how many fingers fit in this area of separation.
Checking for a separation of the diastasis recti.
It is perfectly normal to have a separation in these muscles during pregnancy. If you can fit three or more fingers in this pace, you need to do corrective exercises during pregnancy. These exercises are designed to help prevent this gap from growing.
The morning before you get out of bed and the evening before you go to sleep are the perfect times to do these brief exercises. Lie on your back with your knees drawn up. Cross your arms over your abdomen, grasping each side with the hand from the opposite side (see FIGURE 10-2).
You will use your wrists or arms, depending on the size of your abdomen, to support your muscles as you slowly raise your head while you exhale. While you do this, gently pull your hands toward the center of your body (see FIGURE 10-3). This exercise should only be done a few times a day.
Resolving a separation of the diastasis recti.
Remember, this is a gentle motion to help shorten the separation.