Abdominal separation in pregnancy: what does it mean for me?

Abdominal separation: it’s one of those things that you might or not have heard of in pregnancy.

If you have, then it’s likely that this is because it is your second (or more) pregnancy. It’s the kind of thing that hits the radar once your baby is born and you’ve emerged enough from the initial whirlwind to notice that the tummy area looks decidedly different from 9 or more months earlier.

Some might argue that there’s absolutely no point in my even mentioning it to you because, for the majority of women, it’s an inevitable, unavoidable part of pregnancy, so what’s the point of worrying you about it?

Let me start of by saying that I don’t want to worry you.

Let me reassure you that there’s no need to worry either.  

But perhaps you are still wondering what on earth “abdominal separation” is.  

What is abdominal separation?

“It sounds nasty” I often hear mums-to-be say looking rather worried when I use the term “abdominal separation” but the reality is that it is a normal and natural part of pregnancy for the majority of women.

Essentially the abdominal area is made up of 4 layers of muscle and during mid- to late pregnancy, the majority of women experience the topmost layer of muscle separating out vertically, from the belly button up to the breastplate and from the belly button down to the pubic bone.


Quite simply to allow space for your growing baby: as you expand, this separation of the top layer of muscle - the rectus abdominis – allows your bump to grow.

Some of us are more prone to abdominal separation than others and this can be linked to a number of factors (many of them not very surprising) such as if you are expecting a big baby, or if you are not very tall, if you are expecting twins, if you have had 2 or more pregnancies in quick succession, and so on…

How do I know whether or not I have abdominal separation in pregnancy?

If you are in early pregnancy then I’d leave it for now.

On the other hand, if you are in the later stages of pregnancy then you can have a quick check. My view is that it is better to know so that you can prepare yourself for the postnatal period.

Try this:

  1. When you’re having a bath (savour it because postnatally you’ll only have time for showers!) observe your tummy as you get yourself back up from a lying position. As you lever yourself up what happens to your bump? Does it still look perfectly round? Or does it pop up into a funny “cone” shape? If it does, then that’s an indication that the top layer of muscle has separated out.
  2. When getting out of bed, if you happen to have been lying briefly on your back, take a look at your tummy area as you get yourself up. As mentioned above, if your bump raises up into a rather odd inverted “V” shape then you probably have abdominal separation

I have abdominal separation in pregnancy: does it matter?

As mentioned earlier, it isn’t something to worry about but it is definitely worth knowing and modifying certain movements accordingly.

If having done the “tests” above you reckon that you do have abdominal separation in pregnancy then here’s what to do:

  1. Don’t panic
  2. Don’t do any movements which make your bump pop upwards into that funny cone-shape  mentioned earlier
  3. Get out of bed by rolling onto your side and using your arms to lift yourself up rather than using the abdominals
  4. Swap from baths to showers!
  5. Do your pregnancy-specific deep abdominal core stability exercises as this will help your abs to recover more quickly postnatally
  6. Do your pelvic floor exercises
  7. Postnatally you’ll need to check how much of a separation you have – you can ask me how to do that when the time is right

Got any tummy/abdominal-related questions?

If you have a question that you’d really love an answer to relating to the abdominal area, whether it be in pregnancy or postnatally, then fire away. I will be on the forum all of Friday 1st of July taking questions. Can’t wait to hear from you – I love a good abs-related question!

See you there!


Jo x   

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