The baby bulge mystery

I was without a doubt, a bit of a gym junky. Despite this, I soon realised after having two children there were two things I had known very little about at the time. Firstly, I had no idea that it was possible for your abdominal muscles to ‘split’ while carrying a baby and the consequences that followed and secondly, while I had heard about pelvic floor muscles, I didn’t realise exactly where they were, why we had them or how to use them - I thought you exercised this area just before having a baby because it somehow made the birth a bit easier and I thought to exercise them, you sat crossed legged on the floor and you tilted your pelvis in different directions, or something like that.....?

When I found out I was pregnant, I was advised it was okay to continue exercising with a modified program. I asked for a fitness instructor who specialised in pregnancy. I met with her two days later. She was fantastic and wrote me a program that I felt very comfortable with. It was both extensive and intensive and I loved it. The duration of the program was for one hour and 20 minutes and I did this four times a week. For abdominal exercises I was given many sets of curl ups and crunches to do, i.e. to the middle, to the sides. The only pelvic floor exercises I was given were at the pre-natal classes. I deliberately remember not attending those as I knew I was physically very fit and therefore in my mind, if all my other muscles were fit, how could the pelvic floor muscles not be? Besides, they were just not my thing – they appeared far too ‘gentle’ for me. I continued exercising right up until a couple of weeks before my baby was born. The only reason I stopped was because I developed some bad back pain. I don’t recall having abdominal muscle separation after the birth of my daughter, just a flat and slightly wobbly tummy. We had a beautiful baby and I was back into my size 8 jeans, life was perfect. Looking back, it was quite likely that my abdominal muscles had separated, but of course I would have had absolutely no idea.

Twelve months later I was pregnant with my second baby. I was given a specific pregnancy exercise program. This program was quite different to the one before. I certainly was not given any ‘curl up’ type abdominal exercises to do. By now I also had plenty of extra aerobic activity, racing about after a toddler each day. During this pregnancy I developed some lower back pain. Fortunately, I was put on to a physiotherapist who worked in the area of women’s health and she explained to me the importance of pregnancy abdominal bracing and pelvic floor exercises. What surprised me the most was to learn that it is possible for the abdominal muscles to ‘split’. I found that extraordinary! She then pointed out to me that I did have some abdominal muscle separation. Even then, I wasn’t too concerned as I knew I was super fit and I would bounce back to normal after the birth. Yes, somehow I thought I was going to be exempt from mother-nature, but mother-nature had other plans.....

After the excitement of the baby arriving was over, I became deeply concerned as I could feel a massive gap in my abdominals. One morning before getting out of bed, I lifted my head off the pillow and noticed my tummy was looking most peculiar – there was a long puffy bulge that ran the length of nearly all my abdominal area. I poked it and it sprung back like a half baked sponge cake. It was very odd. It stayed that way for weeks and then months and I could feel the gap still there no matter how much I exercised. I remember discussing it with a personal trainer at the gym. I said to her, “this isn’t a gap in my abdominals, it’s a crater!” She said, “Don’t be hard on yourself, you’ve just had a baby, what do you expect.” Thank goodness common sense finally prevailed and I returned to see the same physiotherapist who I had been to before having my baby. Although she understood my concerns, I could tell she was not surprised given the fact there was separation with my abdominals during the pregnancy. I’m also glad this physio radiated a calm disposition as I felt quite guilty when she politely explained to me that you never do abdominal crunches during pregnancy. She got me back on track with both pelvic floor exercises and postnatal abdominal bracing exercises (which were quite different to any other abdominal exercises I had done) and this time I knew I had to take it very seriously so I began charting my progress along the way. Trust me, these exercises were far more difficult and complex than I ever imagined and while they are safe, I discovered they are certainly not a ‘gentle’ exercise at all. I had to think and work very, very hard.

It has taken years for my abdominal muscles to return to normal, a lot longer than it should have. My pelvic floor was no ‘quick-fix’ either. While I will always be extremely grateful that these exercises were taught to me, I just wish I had been given this wonderful guidance and I had listened to it right from the start.

A note from The Pregnancy Centre Team.
It is not recommended that pregnant women exercise while lying on their back after 16 weeks of pregnancy. For further information check our pregnancy exercise guidelines page at:

 Pregnancy Exercise Guidelines

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