It is probably fine to continue your regular abdominal exercises during pregnancy until you begin to show, but once your baby bump begins to show, it is probably best to avoid the commonly known abdominal exercises during pregnancy, like sit-ups, crunches, and leg lifts, since the baby’s weight while you are lying on your back can block the vena cava (the blood vessel that provides blood and oxygen to the uterus) and restrict the blood and oxygen flow to your uterus and the baby. You probably will not even want to continue these abdominal exercises during pregnancy, because scrunching up the abdomen could be uncomfortable.
Abdominal muscle separation occasionally occurs during pregnancy and delivery. Postpartum moms should check their abdominal muscles for separation before starting any abdominal exercises during or pregnancy, or after giving birth, because the damage can be made worse by exercising, if there is separation. Test this by pressing your fingers into the area by your belly button as you attempt to do an abdominal crunch. If you can put more than one or two fingers in between the muscles, they have separated and you will need to modify your crunches. Place your feet the same way, but cross your arms across the abdomen and squeezing the muscles together as you exhale and contract the abdominal muscles, lifting only your head (not the shoulders). You may also use a length of material (such as old sheeting) wrapped around the abdomen and pulled across to achieve the same effect.
Strong abdominal muscles are beneficial to support the baby, ease the strain on back muscles, and are considered to help ease the labor and delivery, when you are giving birth. Adapting abdominal exercises during pregnancy also makes it less likely you will have abdominal muscular separation.
A popular midwife’s suggestion is to learn belly dancing as an abdominal exercise during pregnancy. The exercise you get belly dancing helps keep your abdominal muscles in shape, and helps keep the muscles you use during labor and delivery in shape while making it easier to get your flat tummy back after the baby arrives!
Examples of safe abdominal exercises during pregnancy are:
- Get on your forearms &, knees, and exhale as you tighten the abdominal muscles, pulling the belly button in, toward the backbone, and inhale as you release them. You can work you oblique abdominal muscles by starting in a side-lying position with knees bent.
- At a 45-degree angle, exhale as you lift the rib cage toward the hip bone, squeezing in the waist line, inhale as you lower your rib cage back down.
You should also combine these abdominal exercises with pelvic floor muscle, or Kegel exercises, to get the maximum benefit from them.