Can I perform abdominal exercises throughout my pregnancy?

Paula Greer
Midwifery Nursing

When patients ask me about doing abdominal exercises during pregnancy my answer is twofold. YES and NO.

It is very important to have good abdominal muscles to support the body's core strength when pregnant. Abdominal muscles help you compensate for the inward curve of the lower back as your baby and uterus begin to grow. Many women totally forget these muscles that are used for good posture and stabilization during their pregnancy. These stabilization muscles help avoid back/pelvic/buttock pain during the pregnancy. There are gentle abdominal muscle exercises that can be done that won’t damage or separate the abdominis rectus muscles while the baby and uterus are getting quite large. Unfortunately there are other abdominal muscle exercises that can put too much strain on these muscles and can cause them to separate permanently. Full sit-ups and double leg lifts are some of the abdominal exercises that can put too much strain on the muscles in question and should be avoided during the pregnancy. Certified pregnancy exercise instructors can show you modifications of these exercises that will strengthen but not tear these essential muscles during your pregnancy. Some childbirth books like YOU HAVNG A BABY give some exercises that you can safely do if you have an uncomplicated pregnancy. Make sure to discuss any questions about your exercise with your midwife or ob/gyn.

Yes, it is safe and can be very beneficial to perform abdominal exercises throughout pregnancy.  Maintaining strong abs during pregnancy can help with the process of giving birth, may limit stress to the lower back, help to prevent separating of the abdominal muscles (known as diastasis recti), and aid in recovery from childbirth.  Check with your doctor first to make sure it is okay to particpate in a resistance training or core training program during your pregnancy.  If you receive clearance from your doctor, one exercise to consider is the standing cable torso iso-rotation.  If this exercise is too challenging to perform standing up, it can also be done while seated on a stability ball.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.