Jackie Steele from Body Beyond Birth shares her experience with abdominal separation after giving birth to her twins and how, with help, she was able to retighten her belly.
Abdominal separation… argh.
Earlier this year, Becky Dyer wrote an article here on The Glow about how to avoid an abdominal separation, which caused a lot of intrigue – so I thought I’d give you my personal account of what happens if you do actually get one.
(Ed’s note: For those who are just catching up – abdominal separation occurs when the stomach muscles separate during pregnancy or during labour and delivery. It’s quite common and can occur in 2/3 of pregnancies.)
Let me go back a little… 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. She explained to me what it was and my eyes nearly popped out of my head.
I kept everything crossed that I didn’t have a separation, as it sounded absolutely awful and painful as all hell. I had images of a tummy being busted open and just remaining flabby and lose forever. How could a person function with that?
So I lay on the floor with my eyes shut, praying that I wouldn’t have a separation. The physio felt around my tummy and checked me. There was a long pause, and… yay! I didn’t have any separation. I was so relieved. I felt confident I’d get myself back into shape, no problems at all.
Fast forward 3 years when I was pregnant with twins. I was very aware of what an abdominal separation was. The thing was, my twins were healthy - very healthy. I knew when I was about 20 weeks that my tummy was going to get bigger than I could have ever imagined. By around 30 weeks it 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 just uncomfortable.
As my pregnancy progressed, that tightness and pain seemed to occur more frequently, particularly if any pressure was placed on my abdominals - like when I was standing up from a low seat or getting up out of the car and 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 I'd felt down the centre of my tummy really didn't go away. I knew for sure that my abdominal muscles had separated - it was just a matter of how far. At the time I didn't really care too much - I really loved being pregnant.
The twins were born at 3kg each and my obstetrician estimated my muscles had to stretch one metre to accommodate them. One metre - can you believe that?
I felt very different after having the twins than when I had my first son. It just felt like my tummy muscles were asleep and weren't responding to anything I'd ask them to do. It seemed like when I lay on my back, my abdominals would just flop and lay on either side of the bed next to me. Okay, so that's an exaggeration, but it truly felt weird.
The moment of truth finally arrived when Becky said she'd check my separation. She confirmed that I had one... but then paused. Becky had one hand as she would normally do, on my stomach to measure my separation. She felt around for a little while, paused, felt a little more and then leaned across to put her other hand on my tummy. I knew this wasn't good - she had to use both of her hands to measure my separation.