There are very few events in life that change your body like pregnancy does. And if you're hoping to maintain your core strength over the next nine months, you might be wondering if there are any safe ab exercises for pregnancy. The good news is, as long as you're healthy and your pregnancy is normal, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says it's safe to continue most forms of exercise, including a first trimester ab workout.
Pregnancy Ab Workout Considerations
Your body is changing daily and you need to be realistic about what you can do. It's also important to listen to your body and take your cues from how you're feeling.
- Even if an abdominal exercise is safe to do during the first trimester, if it doesn't feel right, don't do it. Every body is different and every pregnancy is different, so make sure you only participate in movements that enhance your well-being and don't cause pain.
- The ACOG advises against lying flat on your back since your uterus presses on a large vein called the vena cava that returns blood to the heart. So what does this mean for your abdominal routine? Typically, this is not an issue during the first trimester. But if you have questions, talk with your doctor.
- It's easy to see your belly growing from the outside, but what you can't see is your uterus growing and stretching the muscles in the abdomen. This pressure can cause a separation in your stomach area called diastasis recti. While more common later in pregnancy, diastasis recti is still something you need to be aware of when doing abdominal exercises during first trimester.
Core Exercises for Pregnancy
When designing a pregnancy ab workout, the first thing you might want to do is ditch the full situps and opt for a modified crunch instead. This will allow for more comfort while your tummy is growing. If part of your first trimester ab workout includes a Pilates or yoga class, you're advised to do modified versions of both of these practices. In fact, a class geared specifically to prenatal Pilates or prenatal yoga is even better. Both focus on core and abdominal work.
Your first trimester ab workout is an ideal time to start working on your pelvic floor muscles by doing Kegels. If this is your first pregnancy, you may be new to some of the prenatal terminology. But if this is not your first go-round, there's a good chance you've heard your doctor talk about your pelvic floor muscles, which help support the rectum, bladder, small intestine and uterus. To keep this area strong, most doctors recommend a program of Kegel exercises during pregnancy.
How to Incorporate Kegel Exercises
Kegel exercises are simple to include in your pregnancy ab workout. In fact, you can add them while sitting at stop lights, during commercials while watching TV or even waiting in line at the store. To do a Kegel, start by squeezing the pelvic floor muscles for five to 10 seconds. Release and repeat. Aim for 10 to 15 reps, three times a day.
Not sure how to do a Kegel? No problem. The next time you're going to the bathroom, stop the flow of urine midstream and hold it for five seconds before releasing. This is how a Kegel should feel.
Can You Do Planks While Pregnant?
Yes, you can planks during pregnancy. The plank is one of the most comprehensive core exercises you can do. In addition to strengthening your abdominals, plank exercises also help strengthen your shoulders, arms and chest.
If you plank already, keep on planking. But if you don't, consider adding planks to your core exercises for pregnancy. If you're concerned about doing the full movement, you can still get the strengthening benefits by doing a modified plank on your knees.
As with any other form of exercise, if you experience dizziness, headaches, chest pain, abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding or fluid leaking from your vagina, stop what you're doing and contact your doctor immediately.
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Exercise During Pregnancy
- Mayo Clinic: Kegel Exercises: A How-To Guide for Women
- Cleveland Clinic: Pregnancy Workouts and Exercises
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Staying Healthy and Safe
- Mayo Clinic: Why Do Stomach Muscles Sometimes Separate During Pregnancy Pregnancy?