Hey there, moms-to-be! Pregnancy is a magical journey filled with excitement and wonder, but it also comes with its share of challenges. One of these challenges is something you may have heard of but might not fully understand: coning. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the causes of coning, prevention strategies, and expert advice on how to fix coning during pregnancy.
What is Coning During Pregnancy?
Coning is the common term for abdominal bulging which may indicate diastasis recti (DR). DR is a separation of the rectus abdominis muscles that run vertically down the middle of the abdomen. It occurs when the connective tissue in your abdomen bulges out along the midline in a cone shape. Often, coning is a sign of ab muscle separation and decreased core strength. Any activity that increases intra-abdominal pressure can cause your abdominal organs to protrude, leading to coning. Coning in pregnancy has many names, such as torpedo belly, doming, and more.
Why does Coning Occur?
Coning happens when the uterus starts to push through the abdominal wall with the pressure of the growing fetus. The normal width of the linea alba connecting the abdominal muscles should accommodate carrying a fetus, but sometimes it separates instead, and that’s what causes coning. Patterns of movement and exercise habits also play a key role. Things that change the pressure in your abdomen — like coughing, pooping, laughing, lifting weight, and giving birth — can, over time, cause DR. Perhaps the biggest factor is whether you’ve given birth previously. Coning is more commonly seen in women who have had more than one pregnancy — far more common, in fact.
What are the Different Types of Coning?
There are different types of coning, and it’s important to understand the differences. Here are the different types of coning:
- Hard Coning with Exertion: This type of coning occurs during exercise or any activity that increases intra-abdominal pressure. It is a rigid and hard cone that protrudes from the abdomen.
- Soft Coning with Passive Movements: This type of coning occurs during passive movements, such as coughing, laughing, or sneezing. It is a softer cone that protrudes from the abdomen.
- Coning during Pregnancy: This type of coning occurs when the uterus starts to push through the abdominal wall with the pressure of the growing fetus. It could look like a tent or triangle shape of the abdomen.
Is Coning Harmful?
Yes, it can be. While some degree of muscle separation is normal during pregnancy, severe or persistent coning can lead to back pain, pelvic floor issues, and a weakened core. It can also affect your postpartum recovery.
How Can You Fix Coning During Pregnancy?
Here are some tips to help fix coning during pregnancy:
Optimal Posture Setup
The manner in which we prepare ourselves for lifting or performing various movements can either provide support to our core or place additional stress on it. Maintaining a neutral spine position, where the ribs are aligned directly over the pelvis, during loaded movements can assist in effectively managing pressure and preventing abdominal coning. One common example of a movement that can lead to coning is overhead exercises, such as a strict press, where the individual extends their ribs excessively, deviating from the neutral posture. This tends to result in coning at the top of the abdomen. It is essential to prioritize setting up in a neutral position when executing movements with external resistance.
Emphasizing a diaphragmatic breathing pattern, which involves inhaling downward and outward while exhaling upward and inward, can play a crucial role in how we regulate pressure during physical activity. It is advisable to avoid breath-holding, especially during pregnancy and postpartum recovery, as it can elevate intra-abdominal pressure. Focus on synchronizing your breathing with the activation patterns of the primary muscles involved: when the primary muscles lengthen (eccentric phase), inhale, and when they contract (concentric phase), exhale. For instance, during the descent phase of a squat, inhale, and during the ascent phase, exhale.
Activating the transverse abdominals (TA), often referred to as the corset abs, can aid in managing tension in the linea alba. An effective way to identify TA activation is to place your fingers on the lower abdominal region and cough; you will feel the TA engage or tighten. Encouraging the TA to activate is crucial in supporting pressure management. Useful cues to activate the TA include squeezing a ball between your hands, gently pulling the hip bones closer together, and paying attention to pelvic floor activation (as explained in the next point).
Utilizing External Aids
External props can be employed to facilitate the activation of the TA and pelvic floor (PF) muscles. In our gym, we often use a Pilates ball to assist in cueing the pelvic floor. To do this, place the ball between your thighs and, during the exhale phase, gently squeeze the ball using your inner thigh muscles (adductors). This action helps engage the pelvic floor muscles, which, in turn, triggers the activation of the TA. Alternatively, you can also squeeze the ball between your hands for a similar effect.
Adjusting Support or Reducing Demand
If you have diligently applied the above strategies but still experience coning, it may indicate that the particular movement exceeds your current capabilities. This does not imply that you will never be able to perform exercises like planks or pull-ups again. Rather, at this stage, it may be advisable to explore alternative exercises that better align with your fitness journey. You can consider options such as reducing the range of motion, decreasing the weight or resistance used, lowering the number of repetitions, or adjusting the overall volume. These adjustments can make the exercise more manageable and support your progress.
Can Coning be Prevented?
While you can’t always prevent coning entirely, you can minimize the risk by practicing safe exercise during pregnancy, maintaining a healthy weight gain, and paying attention to your body’s signals.
Why Should You Take Coning Seriously?
Coning isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s about your health and comfort during and after pregnancy. Ignoring it can lead to long-term issues that no mom-to-be should have to endure.
- According to research, about two-thirds of pregnant women experience some degree of diastasis recti.
- Addressing coning during pregnancy can reduce the risk of complications postpartum.
- Many women see significant improvement in their abdominal muscle separation with proper exercises and care.
In a Nutshell
Coning during pregnancy is a real issue that deserves your attention. But with the right approach and support, you can tackle it head-on and enjoy a healthier, more comfortable pregnancy journey.
So, dear mom-to-be, remember: Coning may be a bump in the road, but you’ve got the power to flatten it out! Embrace your pregnancy with strength and confidence, and always seek the guidance you need to ensure a smoother ride. Your body—and your baby—will thank you for it. 💪🤰
Frequently Asked Questions
Can coning during pregnancy be painful?
Coning can cause discomfort and pain for some pregnant women, but proper management can help alleviate these symptoms.
Is coning permanent?
Coning is usually temporary and can be improved with the right exercises and support.
Can I continue exercising if I have coning during pregnancy?
It’s essential to consult your healthcare provider for guidance on safe exercises during pregnancy, especially if you have coning.
Are there any surgical options to fix coning?
Surgery is generally not recommended during pregnancy. It’s best to focus on non-invasive approaches and consult a healthcare professional.
Can coning affect the baby?
Coning itself is unlikely to harm the baby, but it’s essential to manage it for your comfort and well-being.
How long does it take to see improvements in coning?
The timeline for improvement varies from person to person. Consistency with recommended exercises and techniques is key to seeing positive changes.