So the other day, my eight-year-old boy, a little jock, asked me: "Mom, can a woman have a six-pack while she's pregnant?" And I laughed so hard I almost transcended all the Kegels I do and had a little, well, you know. Just the thought of a pregnant woman with a six-pack was so funny to me I couldn't shake it from my mind.
My reply to my little son included a graphic description of how the muscles of a woman's abdomen are stretched during pregnancy and, no, there's no way she can have a six pack. No way at all. Sigh....That being said, what exactly DOES happen to a woman's abdominal muscles during pregnancy?
The muscles themselves go through dramatic changes. It takes approximately eight weeks for these muscles to recover and they will need to be strengthened and toned beginning at the eight week mark, if all is well. For more details on the pelvic floor muscle and the abdominals, check out this site.
Under the influence of relaxin the abdominal muscles undergo a tremendous amount of stretching in all directions. Connective tissue within the muscle provides a degree of elasticity, but the main changes occur to the linea alba. The linea alba is connective tissue formed by the joining of the aponeurosis of the transverse and oblique muscles. Relaxin increases the water content of collagen fibres found within connective tissue, resulting in increased elasticity of the linea alba in both directions. The waistline may increase by approximately 50cm (20in) and the rectus abdominis may lengthen by approximately 20cm (8in). The two bands of recti muscle which previously lay parallel stretch away from the mid-line to allow more space for the growing uterus. This is known as diastasis recti -- separation of the recti muscles -- and is quite common, occuring in 66% of women in the third trimester. As it is not painful many women will be unaware that this has happened, although they may have chronic back ache.