Welcome back to part 2 of your prenatal fitness questions answered! If you missed part 1 post about heart rate, check it out here.  

In my many years of working with pregnant woman as a personal trainer and prenatal fitness expert, 4 questions come up over and over again.

4 Top Prenatal Fitness Questions

  1. Can I get my heart rate over 140bpm
  2. Can I do ab work while I am pregnant?
  3. I woke up last night on my back, should I be worried?
  4. My joints feel loosey-goosey, should I avoid working out?

Today, we’re talking about abdominal work and is it safe during pregnancy.

This is probably the number one question I am asked.  Can I do ab work during my pregnancy, and is it safe for my baby.  In a word….YES!!  Strong abdominal muscles help support the weight of the growing baby, help improve posture and help prevent back pain.  Also, fit, strong abs will recover faster post-pregnancy.

It is imperative that you are focusing on your transverse muscles (the deep stabilizers) not your rectus muscles (think 6 pack). Strong transverse muscles are what are going to really help you during your pregnancy, delivery and post partum. Strong transverse muscle act like a support belt for the growing weight of your baby.  Strong abdominals hug your baby closer to your body and take pressure off the low back.  In fact, weak transverse muscles are probably the biggest contributor to back pain I see in my clients, both pregnant and post partum.

So how do you train these transverse muscles?  Think about drawing your belly button in towards your spine.   Try this simple exercise;

Ab Pulls:   It helps to place your hands on your stomach so you can feel the engagement.  Inhale, filling your belly, then exhale pulling your abs in.  Repeat 10 times then finish with 5 “pulses’ where you draw in further after your last exhale 5 times.  Don’t hold your breath, the whole time you should be able to breath and talk normally.

Once you master this move you can do it any time, while your sitting in traffic or at your desk, out on a walk, even from your hospital bed after delivery  or during your normal crunches.

Normal Crunches??  Yes, it is fine to continue normal crunches during pregnancy provided you are focusing on drawing your abs IN during the move, not pushing them out.  Its is a good idea to do your ab work on an incline (like a stability ball) or on all fours to prevent Supine Hypotensive Syndrome (as scary sounding word for a very common, mild occurrence.  We’ll discuss Supine Hypostensive Syndrome more in the next post.)

If you’d like to see a video of more specific ab exercises, check out my friends over at Oh Baby! Fitness and this video where Senior Instructor, Kathleen Donahoe leads a client through some great core exercises.

If you have any questions about abdominal training or any other pre or postnatal fitness question, please let me know in the comment section below!

And stay tuned for Part 3 of our series where we’ll talk more about the truth about lying flat during pregnancy and why you don’t need to worry if you wake up at night on your back.