Pregnancy comes with a lot of physical, emotional, and mental changes. As you expect your precious one (or more, in some cases), it is important to understand these changes; why they occur, what they signify, and how to manage them. This article contains all you need to know about Ab changes during pregnancy and effective ab exercises during pregnancy.
Table of contents:
- What Happens To Your Abs During Pregnancy?
- Are Ab Exercise Safe During Pregnancy?
- When Can I Start Exercising While Pregnant?
- Safe Ab Exercises During Pregnancy
- Exercises to Avoid During Pregnancy
- A Final Word From Edie & Amy
What Happens To Your Abs During Pregnancy?
In the first trimester of pregnancy, you may begin to notice other changes to your belly asides from the obvious baby bump. One of which is the appearance of the linea nigra, which is a dark vertical line between your pubic area and belly button.
Interestingly, the linea nigra has always been there. However, it simply gets darker during pregnancy.
Another notable change to your Abs during pregnancy is the appearance of an elevated ridge from your sternum (or breastbone) down to the middle of your belly. This is called the diastasis recti, and it is the gap between the left and right parts of your abdominal muscles. Medical studies have shown that 5 in 10 moms experience this change during pregnancy.
Sometimes, the diastasis recti expands by a few centimeters as the baby develops, increasing tension in the abdominal region. Furthermore, women carrying multiple pregnancies tend to experience this change a lot more than moms with single pregnancies.
During pregnancy, it is important to check for diastasis recti. You can do this by consistently observing your abdomen to ensure there is no gap wider than three finger-widths. If you notice this, you may need to adjust your Ab exercise routines before, during and after pregnancy.
Are Ab Exercise Safe During Pregnancy?
With your doctor’s approval, it is completely safe to perform ab exercises throughout pregnancy as long as you follow certain guidelines. In fact, we recommend that you strengthen your abs while expecting because it supports your pelvic organs as your little one grows.
Furthermore, strong abs can help reduce back pain during pregnancy and increase a sense of coordination during labor. In addition to this, regular ab exercises may help you recover faster after delivery.
When Can I Start Exercising While Pregnant?
This is really simple: Whenever you’re ready.
Even if you have to deal with severe symptoms of morning sickness or other pregnancy-related discomforts, exercises are guaranteed to make you feel better. In addition to this, exercise would help you regulate weight gain and prepare your body for pregnancy and eventually, childbirth. However, it is also important to rest whenever you feel the need to.
If you were not a big fan of regular exercise before pregnancy, you can start with certain low intensity routines that keep you active for up to 30 minutes daily, 3 to 5 times weekly. For moms who find the gym too tasking, you can try dancing with friends, yoga in your bedroom or even playing around in the pool.
Safe Ab Exercises During Pregnancy
To help you through this journey of exercising while expecting, we have compiled the following safe and effective ab exercises for you:
1. Side Planks
Planks are safe and effective for most moms throughout pregnancy. This is because static, endurance exercises like the side plank strengthen the abs and back muscles. In addition to this, side planks do not put too much pressure on your spine while exercising..
- Place your elbow directly under your shoulders on one side
- Bend your knees and place one directly on top of the other (it can be bent or straight out, depending on what is more comfortable for you)
- Keep your back flat and focus on your core breathing
- Contract your hips and lift your torso (the part of your body from your waist up) to make it lie on a straight line from your head to your hips
- As you do this, ensure your head and neck is kept straight
- Remain in this position for about 20 to 30 seconds. However, you should always remember to breathe while at it.
- Repeat the procedure on the second side.
2. Standing Crunches
This ab exercise is guaranteed to engage your abdominal muscles, hips, feet, shoulders, and pelvis. Standing crunches would improve your core strength and maintain your ab muscles throughout pregnancy. Furthermore, it is safe to perform in all trimesters of pregnancy.
- Stand straight with your feet apart
- Bend your knees and place your hands behind your head
- Inhale some air as you pull your belly button in and also tuck in your pelvis
- Exhale while crunching forward and squeezing your abdominal muscles
- Do this about 15 to 20 times
3. The Sitting Knee Lift
For this, we recommend sitting at the edge of a chair, couch or on an exercise ball.
- Sit at the edge of your chair, or on your exercise ball
- Place your feet flat on the floor, directly under your knees
- Ensure that your palms are facing downwards, beneath your hips.
- Gradually contrast your abdomen by bending your left knee in a way that tilts your pelvis and engages your pelvic floor.
- As you exhale, slowly lift your left knee towards your chest.
- Inhale, then return your left foot to your starting position (on the floor)
- Repeat the procedure with your right leg
4. The Side-lying Crunch
The next exercise on our list is the side-lying crunch which has been a preferred option for most pregnant women for a long time. This is simply because you can exercise while lying down.
- Lie on the floor or yoga mat.
- Gently roll your body to the left and bend your knees to a 30 degree angle
- Slightly raise your knees from the floor by rolling your body to the right side
- Focus your body weight on the your left shoulder
- Place both of your hands behind your head and make sure your fingertips are touching each other.
- Bend your torso upwards in a diagonal position. You can do this by attempting to touch your right knee and then lift as high as possible.
- Bring your arms towards your knees and curl them slightly higher
- Next, place your hands behind your head and return to your original position
- Repeat the procedure on the other side.
To get the best result, we recommend performing this exercise about 10 to 12 times on each side of your body.
5. The Core Breathing Exercise
This is a really simple but effective ab exercise for you.
- Sit or stand in a very comfortable position that has your back on a straight line
- Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest
- Take a really deep breath that would cause your ribs to expand (you should actually feel the movement).
- Count 5-10 seconds as you inhale
- Exhale for another 5 to 10 seconds and bring your ribs back to the normal anatomical position.
- Relax your abdominal muscles by contracting the front of your pelvis
- Repeat the process about 10 to 12 times
6. The Standing Bicycle
Well, this is not as easy as riding a bike. However, it is guaranteed to strengthen your abdominal and thigh muscles as you prepare for labor.
- Stand with your feet kept at hip width, then place your hands behind your head and exhale.
- After this, bring your left elbow to meet your right knee while crunching
- Return to your original standing position and repeat the process with your left foot and right elbow.
- Repeat the entire process about 10 to 20 times.
7. Kegel Exercises
Recent research has shown that Kegel exercises tone certain muscles in the body which control urination, support your developing baby, prevent hemorrhoids, and strengthen the muscles of your vagina as you prepare for childbirth.
- Sit comfortably on your exercise ball and inhale a lot of air in one deep breath.
- As you inhale, allow your belly rise as it fills with air
- Once you have inhaled enough air, slowly exhale to let out all the air
- Make sure you inhale for about 5 to 10 seconds to match the length of your exhalation
- As you exhale, tighten your vaginal muscles. Just like you do when you need to pee but have to hold it in for a while
- Next, relax your face, neck and shoulder muscles. At this stage, only your vaginal muscles should remain contracted.
- Maintain this position for about seven seconds and then slowly release
- Attempt this exercise about 20 times daily and aim to increase the count as you progress.
Everyone knows, and agrees, that squats are really good for women. However, what may not be common knowledge is the fact that proper squats can help pregnant women prepare for the pushing stage of childbirth.
- Stand straight with your feet at hip-width
- Elevate your arms till they lie straight in front of your chest
- Squat down as you inhale
- Focus your weight on your heels and keep your knees from bucking in
- Repeat the process at least 10 times.
9. Standing Pelvic Tilt
This exercise would improve your body posture and also strengthen your back and abdominal muscles.
- Stand straight in front of a wall and place your back and hips against the wall.
- In the right position, you should observe a small space between the wall and your lower back
- After this, contract your abs and tilt your pelvis and hips. At this point, you should feel your lower back flattening itself against the wall behind you.
- Hold this position, release, then repeat.
10. Heel Slides
The final an exercise on our list is the simple heel slide.
- Lie on the floor or mat with your face up
- Bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the floor
- Place your arms at your side with your palms directed downwards
- Lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips, and shoulders form a straight line
- Next, lift your heel above the ground and extend one leg at a time
- Gradually return to your original position
- Repeat the process with the other leg.
Exercises to Avoid During Pregnancy
Although it is important to exercise during pregnancy, your health (and your baby’s) is more important.
During pregnancy it is important to avoid the following exercises:
- Routines that increase the risk of falls or abdominal injury
- Exercises that involve lying flat on your back for long periods
- Hot yoga
- Back bends
- Jumping, bouncing, skipping or sudden jerky movements
A Final Word From Edie & Amy
In conclusion, we recommend that all moms-to-be engage in some sort of exercise to stay physically active throughout pregnancy. To make this really easy for you, the ab exercises listed above have been proven to be safe and effective by many moms around the world.
As you exercise, it is important to get your doctor’s approval, eat healthy and rest as often as you can. Finally, remember that your baby’s health is important. Avoid exercises that involve sudden, jerky, or bouncy movements as they may be harmful in the early stages of pregnancy.