Can Having 'Tight' Abs Make It Difficult To Give Birth Naturally?

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When WWE star Brie Bella welcomed her first daughter, Birdie Joe Danielson, on May 9, the pro wrestler’s labor went differently than expected. Bella’s twin sister, Nikki, told E! News this week that her sister originally planned to give birth naturally—but after about 8 to 10 hours of labor, she had to get an epidural followed by an emergency C-section . The reported reason: “Her abs were too tight!” Nikki explained. “Go figure. Leave it to the WWE Superstar, abs too tight!” Bella’s entire labor lasted 22 hours, according to Nikki, who says she was in the delivery room.

The twin sister’s comments left us wondering: Are tight abs really an issue when it comes to delivery? We turned to an expert to find out. “I can’t really see under any circumstances that having super strong abdominal wall muscles would slow the labor process in any way,” Jamil Abdur-Rahman , M.D., a board-certified ob/gyn, tells SELF.

If anything, he says having strong abs muscles might help with childbirth. During labor, the middle muscular layer of the uterus—the myometrium—does the most work to push the baby out of the uterus and through the cervix and the vagina. But the abs muscles can help with this process, too.

“Normally, it’s the strength of the uterus contracting that kind of pushes the baby down along, along with the intra-abdominal pressure that is increased when mom’s bear down,” Abdur-Rahman says. “[The abdominal wall muscles] create that extra pressure to push the baby down and to dilate the cervix.”

C-sections are typically required when the cervix won’t dilate enough for the baby to move into the vagina, there’s concern about the umbilical cord becoming pinched or compressed, there are problems with the placenta, a baby is breech (meaning positioned to come out feet or butt instead of head first), or the baby is especially large, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists . And C-sections are also a solution if a woman has a prolonged labor, also known as “failure to progress.”

For first-time moms, prolonged labor is labor that lasts for 20 hours or more—which according to Nikki is what Bella experienced. Prolonged labor can happen when a baby is too large, a woman’s birthing canal is too small, or a woman’s pelvis is too small or not the proper shape to accommodate the baby. About a third of C-sections are performed due to failure to progress, according to the American Pregnancy Association . That might have been Bella’s situation—but we can’t know for sure.

There was probably more at play during Bella’s labor than we know from Nikki’s comments—but we don’t doubt that the pro wrestler has abs of steel. It’s also important to note that for many women, their abs muscles actually separate during pregnancy to accommodate a growing belly. The severeness varies, but most women experience at least some degree of separation.

Whatever Bella’s “abs” situation, congrats to the happy new mom and new aunt Nikki!

Related:

Watch: 5 Shocking Things No One Tells You About Your Body After You Have a Baby

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