Is there any point in exercising my tummy/abs during pregnancy?


Is it actually possible to maintain strong stomach muscles through pregnancy? Why do we need to try to do so?

It is entirely possible to keep your stomach muscles strong during pregnancy. We have lots of different abdominal muscles and while the surface ones (called rectus abdominis) will lengthen and stretch and maybe separate as our bumps grow, we can still work on the deep abs (sometime called the ‘core’), which will be supporting your bump. It is a really good idea to keep your abdominals strong during pregnancy as having a strong core will help protect your back, support your bump and may even help during labour. Working your core also involves using your pelvic floor, which is another set of muscles that should be exercised regularly. Most importantly for some, keeping your abs strong and fit during pregnancy will mean a quicker recovery after the birth and an easier journey back to a flat tummy!

Should pregnant women stop doing sit ups/ab cruches after 16 weeks of pregnancy?

It is much more important to focus on core strength during pregnancy than your six pack! Sit ups only work the surface abs and these are going to get very lengthened and stretched in later pregnancy as your baby grows, so there isn’t much point. There is plenty of time to get back to sit ups later! After 16 weeks you should avoid any exercises that involve lying on your back for long periods as you may compromise blood flow to your baby. Doing sit ups as your bump gets bigger may also put you at greater risk of diastasis (separation of the surface abdominals), which can be very painful.

What alternative stomach exercises can pregnant women do?

Work that TVA! That what?! The TVA (transversus abdominis) is the deepest abdominal muscle, which you can think of as the body’s own internal corset. You can activate it simply by first breathing in deeply and letting your chest expand then as you exhale, pulling in your tummy all the way round (as if you are wearing a corset!) and holding it in for a couple of seconds, then releasing. Make sure as you do so you can still breathe deeply and slowly. Getting control over the TVA and working it as often as possible is key to having a flat tum after you have had your baby. We also call this working your ‘core’. Simple pull ins and other core strengthening exercises are perfectly safe during pregnancy and will not harm your baby. You should try and work your core and your pelvic floor every day (and no one even needs to know you are doing it!) Aim for 50-100 tummy pull-ins and 50-100 pelvic floor squeezes every day.

What else can I do to keep my stomach muscles strong through pregnancy?

Regularly core exercises, avoiding excess weight gain (which will stretch the muscles even more) and regular moderate cardiovascular exercise (NICE recommend at least 30 minutes per day of moderate intensity activity during pregnancy) are all crucial to keeping your tummy muscles fit and strong and giving you the best chance of getting your belly back in good shape after you have had your baby.

If you like this please check out my book The 3-Plan: Your Complete Pregnancy and Postnatal Exercise Plan (on Amazon or as e-book on the ibookstore), which has over 75 exercises for pregnancy and the postnatal period.

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