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In "What to Expect When You're Expecting" after birth of baby, it advises to close the gap in your vertical ab muscles before going back to a strenuous routine. My questions are:

1) checking for the gap: I think this is going to be pretty easy to tell? Just palpating my abs to see if there is a gap (soft spot) in the middle of my belly?

2) the description for the work-out to close this gap is:

"While on your back ("the basic position") inhale, cross your hands over your abdomen, using your fingers to draw the sides of your ab muscles together as you breathe out, pulling your belly button inward toward the spine while raising your head slowly. Exhale as you lower your head."

I've translated this to: Inhale, raise head (so abs are clenched), massage abs inward as you exhale and lower head.

Is that right? Does anybody have recommendations for other "closing the gap" exercises?

3) I had a pretty strong core before pregnancy, what if I can't detect a gap? Should I just do some "closing" exercises just to be sure? Should I see a sports doctor to verify?

Thanks for the feedback!

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Seeing a doctor is always recommended if you have any health questions. Being a man, I've never been pregnant, so I can't testify to any of this, but according to what I've read I would definitely advise doing some of the "gap-closing" exercises before going back to a full workout routine. When you're pregnant, the muscles elongate and stretch, and the area in the center becomes weak. It's called "diastasis recti".

It is possible that your abdominal muscles may not have separated during pregnancy. You should be able to feel a ridge running vertically up your abdomen if they have, and that ridge should become more pronounced if you strain or flex your abs.

Pregnancy-Info.net suggests the following exercises:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Work to bring your navel as close as possible to your spine, so it looks as if your stomach is "caving in". Hold this for a minute or two, while continuing to relax and breathe.
  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place both of your hands on your abdomen, fingers pointing towards your pelvis. Exhale and lift your head off of the floor, while pressing down with your fingers. (the exercise from your question)
  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Exhale and extend one leg out in front of you. Wait for your abdomen to contract, and then inhale and place your leg back on the floor. Alternate legs.
  • Wrap a long towel around your stomach with the ends in front of your abdomen. Do a crunch. As you raise your shoulders and head off of the ground, pull the ends of the towel towards one another.

These exercises are meant to be a low-stress muscle building technique to prevent tearing or injuring the muscles or tendons in their weakened state. You should not do any abdominal exercises until after your stitches have been removed and your scars are healed if you had a cesarean section.

Your shortened description of the exercise would be correct.

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