Hey Pretty Mama,
When it comes to your workout routine during pregnancy there are 3 key exercises you really want to focus on especially if you don’t have much time to dedicate to exercising: your lower back, your abdominals and your pelvic floor muscles. These should be the building blocks of any prenatal exercise routine and are vital to reduce pregnancy discomforts, and enabling an easier labor. With that said, today I will focus on your abdominals since I am often asked if it’s ok to continue doing crunches and ab work during pregnancy.
Having a strong core, is important before you fall pregnant and to maintain it during pregnancy even more so, as it can play a helpful role during delivery. Powerful abs stabilize the trunk and core strength helps you maintain good posture and avoid strain and injury. In addition, the abs help provide balance between muscle groups that control your spine and can help prevent an aching back.
Prior to doing abdominal exercises, when expecting, you should check for diastasis recti, which is a painless separation of your abdominal muscles. Your abdominal muscles, or rectus abdominus consist of four sheaths of muscles that are connected together by tendinous-like attachments. The center attachment is called the linea alba. During pregnancy, hormones soften this center seam of the recti muscles. As the abdominal muscles and linea alba seam stretch to accommodate the growing baby, the muscles become long and thin, and there is frequently a separation. This separation occurs usually in the 2nd, or 3rd trimester, but not every pregnant mom will experience this.
How to check for a diastasis recti:
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your fingers 3 to 4 inches above and below belly button. Then lift your head and shoulders off the floor and see how many fingers fit into the gap that you feel. If you are not sure ask your doctor to check this for you.
If you feel a separation, and it’s bigger then two fingers in diameter, your ab routine will have to be modified to prevent it from getting bigger and to put less strain on the abdominals. Abdominal crunches should be avoided. Luckily most of the time, the separation mends by itself after delivery. If you don’t have a separation you can continue doing your abdominal exercises as you did before.
So how should you be modifying your abdominal exercises? Here are a few recommendations:
By doing Abdominal Pulses:
Tailor-sit on buttocks with legs crossed, against the wall or you can also get on hands and knees with your hands directly under shoulders and knees under hips. If your floor isn’t padded you may want to use a mat or blanket for cushioning. In this exercise you will be engaging your deepest abdominal muscle called the Transverse abdominis which runs horizontal across your abdomen. This muscle is the one you feel, when you sneeze or cough and it plays a key role when you are pushing during labor.
Without moving your back, shoulders, butt or pelvis use your abs to pull your belly closer to your spine. Hold for a count of 5, release slowly. Relax your belly and repeat for 2 sets of 15 reps. If your wrists are hurting you as you are leaning on them, go on your knuckles if that feels more comfortable.
By doing Pelvic Tilts:
This exercise can be done in a sitting, standing, side lying and all fours position. If you are doing this on the ball, sit on the ball then walk yourself forward, rolling with it until your shoulders and head are resting on top of the ball. Pull your abdominals in and contract your gluten as you tilt your pelvis forward to round the lower back and exhale. Release and inhale. Do 2 sets of 15 reps.
By doing Planks:
Get on all fours, supporting yourself on forearms and knees or as shown above on forearms and toes. Your body should be in a straight line from your knees, or heels to your shoulders. Remember to pull your stomach in and up as much as you can. Hold the pose for five to fifteen seconds, if you are strong even thirty seconds to 1 minute provided it doesn’t put strain on your lower back. This is a great exercise also postpartum to get your flat tummy back.
So next time you are wanting to work your abs, pretty Mama remember to check for diastasis recti frequently, and to modify, modify, modify. Be well, fit, strong and confident.