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Abdominal Muscles During Pregnancy: What Happens to Them and How You Can Get Them Back?

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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.

Having healthy abdominal muscles before pregnancy will assist you in maintaining them and regaining muscle tone afterward. Strong ab muscles will also reduce back pain and help support you during pregnancy. In order to get your body "back" after pregnancy, you need to begin workouts that are not too strenuous, and wait until you have to completely recovered or healed from childbirth.
For detailed outlines of post-pregnancy abdominal work outs, click this link: http://babyfit.sparkpeople.com/articles.asp?id=805
For woman who experienced C-section deliveries, the recovery time may be different. It is always wise to check in with your OB/GYN or nurse midwife to make sure you are healthy and recovered enough to begin workouts.

Aimee Boyle is a mother of two wonderful boys, a chocolate lab and some fish. She is also a happily married freelance writer and special education teacher in Connecticut. She works on her abs in an ongoing cycle of determination and lack of same.

Add a Comment6 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

This is very great blog and providing information on every aspect of women health. I found this very interesting. I want to talk about light bladder leakage with which many women suffers after pregnancy. One of may friend suggest me this i personally it is very helpful for me. This is an very effective post pregnancy workout method in such kind of problem. For more information please visit http://www.pelvicfloor.biz/

August 31, 2012 - 4:20am
EmpowHER Guest

I had a six pack before I became pregnant, 2 months ago I was feeling thwm up and thinking to myself how weird the felt, on the sides instead of the middle. I'm now 6 months and I feel a ripping sensation right above my belly button. 3 1/2 more months to go!

January 19, 2012 - 6:25pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

my stomach mucles came apart a little with my son he was 10lbs 11 oz with a 15 inch head how can i prevent this from happening again and suggestion are welcome as long as they are kind

June 2, 2012 - 3:23pm

Thanks for the article Aimee-- good to know what my muscles went through and what they will be going through with this pregnancy. :-( Hopefully they can be saved afterwards and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for another small belly.

Thanks again,


December 29, 2009 - 6:33am

Thanks for your insight!


December 28, 2009 - 8:57am
EmpowHER Guest

Postpartum women should rebuild the abdominal wall from the inside out, starting with the Transverse Abdominis. This is the body's internal "girdle" and when contracted compressed the abdomen. This is key to flattening the abdominal wall after pregnancy.

December 23, 2009 - 1:47pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.