When my twins were 3 months old I decided that I needed to have a little bit of me time. The babies were more settled into a routine and were sleeping okay so I figured a gentle weekly exercise class might be just what I needed.
I signed up for a post natal Pilates class in our village hall. The instructor was a physiotherapist at the hospital so I knew I was in safe hands. I was a little bit nervous before my first session but really looking forward to it.
At the beginning of my first class the instructor asked if she could check my abdominal muscles. She wanted to make sure that they had come together enough after being very stretched by my twin pregnancy. She explained that it was normal to have a gap that was about the width of 2 fingers. This is when I got a bit of a shock. The instructor discovered that the gap between my abdominal muscles was really big. It was about as wide as my whole hand. The instructor explained that as she was a physio at the hospital she was able to refer me for hospital treatment. I was able to join in with the rest of the class but I needed to do simplified versions of a lot of the exercises.
I cried most of the way home – I was really upset that my relaxing me time had ended in a hospital referral. When I had calmed down I realised that I was probably quite fortunate that this problem had been picked up in this way. It wasn’t something that I remembered being talked about or checked when I had my 6 week post natal check up. I felt a bit annoyed with myself that I hadn’t realised that my abs were in such a bad state but I didn’t really know that I should have checked them or how to check them.
I went to hospital physiotherapy appointments about every 5 weeks and had simple exercises to do at home in between. It was encouraging to see that doing simple, gentle exercises for a short time everyday could make a difference to my abdominal muscles even if it was a struggle to fit them in. It was all about regularly repeating the exercises rather than doing anything really intensive or strenuous.
I carried on doing the post natal Pilates class for about a year which really helped. Once I was a bit stronger I did exercises from Darcey Bussell’s Pilates For Life DVD in the evenings once the kids were in bed (much to the amusement of my husband). It was a slow process but overtime I saw a lot of improvement in my muscles and core strength.
I was signed off from the physio just before I went back to work when the boys were 1 year old. The gap between my muscles is largely gone although there is no danger of me breaking all a bikini to show them off! I also had a really proud moment when my Pilates instructor told me I was ready to move up from the post natal group to a regular Pilates class!
If pregnancy has taken it’s toll on your abdominal muscles I would really recommend that you get them checked out. My experience is that is possible to improve muscle separation overtime through doing very specific targeted exercises. The guidance of a professional physiotherapist was invaluable – even if she made me cry in my evening class!