What’s Happened to my belly?

Article from May’s Buggyfit Mums Newsletter.

” I have chosen a piece to send you written by one of those said fab trainers running buggyfit classes, which will enlighten you with “what has happened to your belly”….and what we can help you with. Grab a cuppa (or indeed a glass of something and enjoy.”


Yuk – I’ve got a pouch instead of a tummy, an outie instead of an innie, my back often hurts, I still need to wee too urgently in spite of doing all those pelvic floor exercises…

You may have diastasis recti, where the right and left halves of the rectus abdominis muscle have spread apart at the body’s mid line fascia, the linea alba. This is more common in 2nd and subsequent pregnancies but mainly because it can go almost unnoticed and therefore uncorrected with baby number one. If you think you may have this then just ask your Buggyfit instructor to check.


Will I ever get my tummy back?rectus-abdomnis

The TVA (transverse abdominal) muscle in the lower tummy support the spine and act as a natural “corset” to pull us into good alignment. They play a key role in maintaining lumbar pelvic stability and preventing weight being transferred across the lower back when load-bearing. A simple version is shown in the diagram – the TVA are the lowest of the muscle groups shown. You can see that once these come together, the muscles higher up the chain will follow

You need to retrain them from the bottom up. Go for top down (crunchies, sit ups, full planks etc.) and they are too weak to withstand this and will collapse even further.

The TVA works in conjunction with the pelvic floor (PF) and multifidus. These 3 muscle groups form the “core”. The multifidus muscle groups form the deep core all the way up your spine, from tail to top. They are like guide ropes on a tent and again are key to lumbar pelvic stability. The PF forms a “sling” from the coccyx to pubic bone. It is a key postural stabiliser in that it will help maintain structural stability of the pelvic bones and sacrum (tail bone) as we move.


80% of women with an RA gap will also have a dysfunctional pelvic floor, so training ALL the affected muscle groups is absolutely key!

Together the core muscles should PRE-ACT, prior to movement. When the spine and pelvis are stable, the nervous system sends signals to the brain telling it that the arms and legs and are all good to go. When the transverse abdominis muscles are not working optimally, the brain automatically lowers the neurological impulses to the muscles, as the brain attempts to protect the joints i.e. the pelvis and the spine to prevent any damage. In this instance, other muscles are recruited to maintain stability and this is what can lead to back pain, hip pain and pelvic floor dysfunction.

Effects of Pregnancy & Childbirth on Lumbar Pelvic Stability

When we are pregnant, our bodies produce a hormone called RELAXIN to allow for more movement and flexibility at the hips and sacroiliac joint in preparation for child birth. This carries on being secreted during breastfeeding, with levels dropping several weeks after weaning our babies.

If there is already an inherent weakness in the trunk, then pelvic dysfunction becomes very apparent and all the other joints in the body have to start over working to stabilise the spine and the pelvis. It is not uncommon to develop knee or shoulder pain after child birth, as well as lower back and hip / pelvic pain. And unfortunately doing ALOT of core strengthening is not the answer especially when all the core muscles are already overworking to stabilise the body.

picSo how do I re-train my abs?

Ideal core exercises promote strength through the entire mid-section (trunk), whilst improving daily functional movement and posture. BUT you have to be able to recruit these muscles BEFORE strengthening them. You cannot strengthen muscles that you cannot recruit.

Recruitment – lie on your back or side with your spine in neutral posture (gentle curve in your lower back). Imagine a line between your 2 hip bones at the front and your left & right iliac crest at the back. Think about closing the line further. Now think about drawing in the muscles from your pubic bone to your sacrum and from the left to right sides of your pelvic floor. Breathe in and then breathe out slowly, imagining the line or cord between your hip bones is drawing closer together. If you place a hand on your lower tummy, you should feel a deep inner tension but not a tightness that pushes your belly out. Do not panic if this seems impossible at first – your muscles are still there, they are just asleep! Do 3 sets of 10 of these, 3 to 4 times a day for up to 4 weeks.

The hips, pelvis and spine should remain still and there should be no gripping of the butt or tummy.



Once you are confident that you are able to recruit your core, you can now add movement. Obviously, we do not spend most of our waking hours lying down, so it is important to build in functional exercises that replicate daily activity.

We look forward to seeing you at Class.

Written by Jane Bradshaw


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