The abdominal muscles
- Quick tips
- Active pregnancy
- The pelvic floor
- The abdominal muscles
- Back care & posture
- Common concerns in early pregnancy
- Food & nutrition in pregnancy
- Weight and pregnancy
- Reducing the risk of stillbirth
Because your abdominal muscles stretch over the growing baby and uterus, they can become less effective.
The abdominal muscles support your abdominal organs and spine. When the abdominal muscles contract they produce spinal movement so you can bend and twist, or hold the spine stable so you can stand upright. This is called ‘core stability’. Because your abdominal muscles stretch over the growing baby and uterus, they can become less effective at doing their normal support and movement tasks. If they are not exercised at all, they can overstretch as the uterus rests forward onto them. Then they maybe unable to return to their original length and shape after birth.
Sit-ups, or ‘crunches’ are the usual exercises associated with abdominal training. These are inappropriate and ineffective during pregnancy – ineffective because the stretch on your abdominal muscles means they cannot work the way they did before you were pregnant; and inappropriate because the exercise is done lying on your back. In this position the baby rests on major blood vessels and may block blood flow, causing dizziness.
Tummy exercises in pregnancy
The best way to exercise the abdominals and gain core stability is to draw them in without moving your spine. Think of cuddling you baby with your abdominal muscles or sucking your bellybutton towards your backbone.
- Get on your hands and knees. Let your tummy relax.
- Breathe in gently. As you breathe out, gently draw in the lower part of your stomach firmly, lifting your baby as you draw in. Hold for the count of three or more if you can. Let go.
- Repeat this movement up to 10 times with a few seconds rest between each one.
- Build up gradually until you can hold the muscles strongly for 10 seconds and repeat the exercise 10 times, and can also do a 60-second-long hold.
- When this exercise becomes easy, challenge yourself by lifting one arm alternately while keeping you abdominals ‘switched on’, then one leg, then opposite arm and leg, then same side arm and leg. With each of these variations, build up your hold time as you did with the initial exercise.
Hint: Don’t move your back at any time during the exercise. You should be able to breathe and talk as you do this exercise. You can also squeeze your pelvic floor muscles at the same time.
Group exercise during pregnancy
If you are exercising in a group or at a gym, choose to do clinical pilates, a fitball class, boxercise, aquarobics, or a ‘Pump’ class (with light weights) for the best abdominal workout.
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