Can You Do Ab Exercises When You're Pregnant?

The short answer is YES GIRL! (well, some of them).

The longer answer requires a little background and some myth busting.

Myth #1: You should only walk or rest during pregnancy → False

Exercise is good for both mom and baby! Some of the benefits of exercise for mom include: lower chance for gestational diabetes and unplanned c-sections, and quicker recovery postpartum. Some benefits for baby include lower risk for diabetes and a fitter heart. Pretty cool! Check out the full list of benefits for mom and baby at https://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/exercise-benefits

Myth #2: Ab exercises should be avoided in particular because you may harm the baby → False

Your baby is floating in amniotic fluid, in its amniotic sac, within the uterus so it is protected from any gentle bumps or contracting abdominal muscles. So, you’re not going to squish the baby if you do an ab exercise. Ok, got that out of the way, but read on.

Myth #3: Doing ab exercises during pregnancy can cause diastasis → Both True and False...let me explain.

First of all, most pregnant women (75% or more) will have a diastasis during pregnancy. This is NORMAL and simply because the baby needs room to grow. Sometimes, the diastasis heals itself, and sometimes it needs some extra help.

CERTAIN exercises may increase the severity of your diastasis. These exercises include exercises that focus on the rectus abdominis (6 pack muscle) and/or exercises that increase intra-abdominal pressure (IAP). Rectus Abdominis exercises include: crunches, bicycles, double leg lowering, and navasana. Increased IAP occurs when you hold your breath and bear down during an exercise. People commonly hold their breath during exercises like planks where you have to hold a position for a while. Both Rectus Abdominis exercises and increased IAP can produce a doming or coning effect at the linea alba, potentially worsening a diastasis. Doming/Coning should be avoided, so any exercise that produces this effect should not be done or should be modified to the point where it doesn’t occur.   

However, other abdominal exercises may help reduce the severity of a diastasis and help the recovery postpartum. These exercises work on the other core muscles: Transverse Abdominis (TA), Pelvic Floor Muscles (PFMs), and diaphragm. In addition to decreasing the severity of a diastasis, strengthening these muscles supports the low back and pelvis, helps during the pushing phase of delivery, and improves the postpartum recovery process in general. Check out my Instagram page (@glowptandwellness) for some examples of these exercises.

*Note: if you want more information about diastasis or specific exercises, comment below! Or email me! I’d love to chat with you and help you out.

So, recap: abdominal exercises that focus on rectus abdominis strengthening and/or increase your IAP and create coning/doming should be avoided or modified during pregnancy. Abdominal exercises that focus on the other core muscles such as the TA, PFMs, and diaphragm should be done during pregnancy to minimize the diastasis postpartum and prepare the body for labor, delivery, and recovery.