Many women are unnecessarily anxious towards abdominal exercises during pregnancy. It circulates stories that the muscles could get so hard that you cannot give birth. Just as the logic says that’s not true and the fact is that it is the opposite: the abdominal muscles can help in the expulsion and to ease labor. Obviously you cannot train to get a flat stomach while pregnant, but to keep in shape and faster recovery after childbirth. Abdominal muscles are no different than other muscles: the muscles decrease in strength and volume if not in use, so if you’re not training them at all in nine months, it may be difficult to train them again after the birth.
Adaptation of the abdominal muscle
Most people can continue with regular abdominal exercises until the third month. Then you should check before each workout if you have Diastasis recti (also known as abdominal separation). It is a painless and harmless condition that means that the abdominal muscles divide to make room for the baby. All women may not get it, but it is quite common. Lie on your back and slowly lift your head against your stomach meanwhile try to feel with your fingers how far it is between the abdominal muscles. The distance should be no more than two fingers wide. If it is, you do not need to worry but you should stop with the usual sit-ups for instance and instead do other exercises. I will describe some of these here below. There is also an exercise included to help close the gap after birth of the child. You should not do regular crunches or sit-ups until the distance between the abdominal muscles is back to normal generally.
The following exercises can be good to do if/when you get Diastasis recti:
1. Sit with legs crossed. Pull your abdomen towards your spine; hold 4 seconds. Do 20 repetitions
2. Kneel on all fours. Bend back like a cat, pull in your abdomen; hold about 4 seconds. Do 10 repetitions
3. Stand up, preferably against a wall. Pull your abdomen towards your spine; hold about 4 seconds. Do 10 repetitions
4. Lie on your back with legs drawn up and apart. Push the hips so that lifts the butt off the floor and pinch together legs and buttocks; do 10-20 repetitions
5. Sit-ups during diastasis recti: Lie on your back, fold arms across your stomach and “hold together” the abdominal muscle so that it is supported. Gently roll up in a little “crunch”. The same exercise can then be used to effectively close the gap after birth of the child.
Pregnancy related Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP)
Many women will get pelvic pain when they are pregnant, but remember that the risk is not as great and the symptoms are usually less severe for women who perform exercises before and during the pregnancy. That is worth to take into consideration if you’re initially scared to continue with, or to start with some exercise while being pregnant. Many women have worse symptoms while they are sedentary during pregnancy, keep that in mind, and exercise according to your ability. Continuity with your exercises will help you both during and after the pregnancy.