Abdominal exercises are recommended and are important for pregnant women. Regularly strengthening your abdominals will help you to reduce your risk of back pain and will help you to maintain a good posture. What’s more, by developing your oblique and transverse abdominal muscles you will be better prepared for the expulsion phase of your delivery.
The most efficient way to strengthen the abdominal muscles is to work in the following order (deepest to most superficial):
- The transverse abdominal muscle, the deepest part of the abdominal wall and significant part of our core;
- The internal and external oblique muscles, located on each side of the rectus abdominis;
- The rectus abdominis, which extends from sternum to the pubic bone.
Different positions are recommended depending on the stage of your pregnancy. Instead of doing abdominal exercises lying on your back, like with typical crunches, try exercises in a seated or standing position.
Starting in the fifth month of pregnancy, it is not recommend to do certain strengthening exercises lying on your back, particularly when the thoracic cage (chest) is compressed, like when doing a long series of sit-ups. In this position, there is a risk that the weight of the fetus will compress the vena cava, which can lead to a drop in blood pressure in the mother (hypotension).
It is not recommended to continue with exercises if you notice a gap in your rectus abdominis.
Here is an exercise that you can do throughout your pregnancy:
With knees under hips and wrists in line with your shoulders, keep your back flat and contract your abdominal muscles. Stretch one arm forward, at shoulder height, followed by the opposite leg. Breath deeply. Keep head in line with the spine. Hold for at least two to three seconds per side.
Areas strengthened: Gluteal muscles, hamstrings and lumbar back muscles as well as deltoids.
To increase the difficulty of this exercise, try it with a tubing band stretched from hand to opposite foot.