Can you exercise your abdominal muscles when pregnant? Why should you exercise your abdominal muscles when pregnant? How should you exercise?
Let’s take a closer look at doing abdominal exercises while pregnant!
First, here are a few facts! We have the following abdominal muscles:
- The transverse abdominis (goes around your entire torso like a corset, connecting your ribs and pelvis – or holding your upper body and lower body together. This muscle gives you more stability, and holds internal organs including the uterus in place. When you breathe out, the transverse abdominis is pulled in towards your spine, compressing the area between your ribs and hips). The transverse abdominis is the most important abdominal muscle to be aware of when you are pregnant (and after pregnancy too, for that matter).
- The internal obliques (help to reduce/prevent you from arching your back during pregnancy).
- The external obliques (help you to push your baby out when you are in labour – in the same way as the transverse abdominis).
- The rectus abdominis (we often call these muscles the six-pack).
All of our abdominal muscles are interconnected.
Our abdominal muscles are there to:
- stabilise the spine and provide support
- bend the torso forward and to the side
- rotate the torso
- maintain the correct pelvic position so that you don’t arch your back or, on the contrary, push your bottom under you and push your hips forward.
How are your abs affected by pregnancy?
- Your waist measurement increases by about 50 cm
- 66% of women experience abdominal separation during the 3rd trimester, and for 27% this happens even earlier
- Immediately after giving birth, the uterus begins to return to its normal size, but the abdominal muscles are still stretched and weakened.
Abdominal muscle recovery is poorer in unfit women than in fit women – and this must always be remembered.
So, based on the above facts, let’s draw some conclusions! We need to tone certain muscles to stay strong and stable during pregnancy, reduce the risk of abdominal separation and deliver the baby efficiently.
All this is achieved by exercising the transverse abdominis.
Take a look at the picture: the baby is the same number of weeks in both pictures.
On the left you can see a woman with weak abdominal muscles. The baby’s position is slightly different from that of the woman with strong abdominal muscles (pictured right). If a woman has weak abdominal muscles, the weight of her baby presses against her abdominal wall, while a woman with strong abs has a more ‘compact’ stomach and the baby lies straighter, without pressing against her abdominal wall. Childbirth is easier for women with stronger abdominal muscles, as the baby has no ‘obstacles’ and can move downwards more easily.
To summaries and answer the question, yes you should exercise your abdominal muscles when pregnant. Core exercises during pregnancy is necessary if you want to avoid pain in your back and hips during pregnancy but also to recover faster after childbirth.