Abdominal exercises focus the work on the rectus abdominis, or the superficial muscles of your belly region. During the fifth month of pregnancy, this region begins to expand faster than during the beginning months of your pregnancy. As your belly expands, it places stress on the fascia, known as the linea alba, that separates your right and left rectus abdominis muscles. Use care when performing abdominal exercises to avoid increased stress on this connective tissue.
Safely Target Abdominals
Avoid endangering your baby or causing a separation between your rectus abdominis muscles by choosing abdominal exercises that focus on the deep abdominal muscles. Any exercise that requires you to lie on your back may endanger both you and your baby, because the weight of your baby presses directly on your vena cava, the large vein that returns blood to your heart, and restricts blood flow. “While most deep core abdominal exercises are safe during the fifth month of pregnancy, listen to your body and stop any movement that feels uncomfortable or causes strain on your lower back,” states Dr. Abaz Sosic, an obstetrician for Bradford Regional Medical Center in Bradford, Pennsylvania. Yoga provides a safe alternative to abdominal exercises to work your abdominal muscles.
Pelvic tilts strengthen your abdominal muscles and decrease backaches related to the rapid growth of your baby. Perform this exercise while standing against a wall or while on your hands and knees in a kneeling position. If you choose the standing version, stand with your back against a wall and tighten your abdominal muscles as you tilt your pelvis forward until the curve of your lower back is flat against the wall. If performing this exercise on your hands and knees, place your hands directly under your shoulders, arms straight. Tighten your abdominal muscles as you tilt your pelvis forward and hunch your back up slightly. Hold the pelvic tilt for five to 10 seconds and then relax. Perform pelvic tilts for 10 to 15 repetitions twice a day.
Side crunches also help support your growing baby and reduce back pain by strengthening the oblique muscles on the side of your abdomen. Begin by lying on your left side with your knees slightly bent and your left hand slightly in front of your body to keep your body stable. Place your right hand behind your head and raise your right knee as far as possible, trying to touch your elbow to your knee. Repeat this exercise for up to 25 repetitions or until your obliques tire out. Perform the same number of repetitions while lying on your right side.
If you feel the need to perform traditional crunches to keep your abdominal muscles as toned as possible, place something behind your torso to keep your head raised to at least a 45 degree angle, advises Dr. Sosic, who does not recommend traditional crunches beyond five months of pregnancy. Lean against your support with your legs out in front of you, knees bent. Support your body with your arms and contract your abdominals to lift your feet slightly off the floor. Assume the same position and contract your abdominals to bring your head and shoulders off your base of support for a more traditional crunch. A safer crunch alternative is to use a balance ball to support and cushion your back. Check with your physician to determine the safest exercise for you.
- Dr. Abaz Sosic; Bradford Regional Medical Center; Bradford, Pennsylvania
- University of Utah Health Care: Exercise Your Way to a Healthy Pregnancy
- Progressive Parent Series: Abdominal Exercises