Pregnancy pooch― crunches could make it worse!

Can’t wait to get rid of that annoying post-partum belly? Ease into your exercises slowly or you might delay healing.

Your post-pregnancy pooch is a symbol of love and strength ― after all, this is a visible sign that you “grew” an entire human being over nine months. But who can blame you if you wished it, well, wasn’t there? 

          Still, if you’re having a tough time trying to get rid of your baby belly, you may suffer from abdominal diastasis recti. This happens when the rectus abdominis muscle ― or what is commonly known as the six-pack muscle ― separates, explains physiotherapist Calvin Sim. These muscles play numerous roles such as helping to flex the spine, aid in lifting one’s leg while in a lying position, and supporting one’s posture.

         During pregnancy, this key muscle helps prevent and manage lower-back pain. As your belly grows, it is stretched and possibly weakened, leading to the development of the post-baby pooch. A simple test can determine if you have diastasis recti.

Diastasis recti test

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Relax your head and shoulders.
  2. Position your fingers (with your palm facing you) just above your belly button.
  3. Lift your neck and head slightly off the floor. As you do that, press down with your fingertips. If you feel a gap, that’s the diastasis.


“Seventy per cent of new mums will have this symptom until about 8 weeks post-partum.”

It’s common and normal
Some degree of diastasis recti will occur in all pregnant women in their third trimester, Sim notes. “Seventy per cent of new mums will have this symptom until about eight weeks post-partum.”

          Diastasis of about 2cm to 3cm is common but “if it persists beyond eight to 12 weeks, you may need treatment to manage the condition”, Sim adds.

Risk factors
You are more susceptible to having diastasis recti if you’re expecting twins or triplets, carrying a big baby, more than 35 years old, or if you had your kids in close succession.

          A big no-no? Doing crunches or sit-ups during pregnancy or in the weeks after. “Crunches increase your intra-abdominal pressure and might push out the abdominal contents through the diastasis, slowing down the healing process,” Sim explains.

          Check with your gynaecologist when you can safely return to exercising. If you had been working out regularly before and during pregnancy, and had a natural birth without any complications, you will probably be able to return to normal exercises in four to six months.

Click on to find out what you can do to close up the gap!