Abdominal separation is called diastasis recti and it's the separation of the right and left sides of the rectus abdominus muscle in the abdomen. It is a relatively common condition in pregnancies as about 1/3 of pregnant women will experience diastasis recti in their second or third trimester. Women who are at higher risk are those carrying multiple babies or have had multiple births. According to the National Institute of Health, many cases of diastasis recti will correct themselves after birth, however severe cases may cause umbilical hernia and require surgery to correct. There are exercises you can do to help correct this condition, and even help prevent it.
During pregnancy, the stress that the baby puts on the abdominal muscles causes them to weaken and expand. The muscles responsible for holding both sides of the rectus abdominus together are the transverse abdominal muscles, which run horizontally under the rectus abdominus, and the obliques, which are the muscles that wrap around your sides. Pregnancy-info.net recommends keeping those muscles strong during pregnancy to reduce risk of diastasis recti. Do not do full sit-ups, however, as they put further stress on the muscles and can aggravate the condition. Wait at least four to six weeks after birth before starting abdominal exercises.
Get in a quadruped position on your hands and knees and with your back horizontal to the floor. Relax and let your belly sag toward the floor, then pull your belly button in and tighten all the muscles in the midsection, straightening your back out. Hold for three seconds, relax and repeat. Debbi Goodman, a manual physical therapist, recommends doing 50 to 100 repetitions.
This is a progression from the quadruped exercise. To do the plank, start lying on your stomach. Place your elbows and forearms on the floor. Lift your body so your weight is distributed between your forearms and toes. Your back should be straight, not sagging toward the floor, and draw your belly button in toward spine. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 12 to 15 times. Once 30 seconds is easy, increase the time by 15 seconds. You can also do these on one side of the body by turning sideways. Place your left forearm and left foot on the ground with your right foot on top or it and lift your body so that it is straight.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Extend one leg straight out so it is about 12 inches above the floor. Hold it there for three seconds while drawing in the muscles of your abs tight. Bend the leg back and switch sides. Repeat 12 to 15 times per side. This exercise isolates each side of the obliques and transverse abdominus.