Pregnancy Abdominal Exercises
Maintaining a strong torso is essential to minimizing back aches and for promoting good posture. Your abdominal and back muscles work together to maintain good posture and support your body. Rather than one muscle, the abdominals are a set of muscles working together to allow you to twist, turn, and bend. The thinnest part of the abdominals is right in front, where connective tissue holds the two halves of the rectus abdominal muscles together.
During the growth of pregnancy, the abdominal muscles must stretch to allow room for the uterus. Strong and flexible abdominal muscles allow for the necessary growth while still providing some support for the uterus. When the abdominal muscles become weakened, the back muscles do more of the work supporting the body, leading to backaches. Strong abdominals also keep the pelvis in proper alignment, further preventing backaches.
Many women avoid abdominal exercises while pregnant, fearing diastasis recti, the separating of the connective tissue of the abdomen. Later in pregnancy, hormones in your body relax the connective tissue, increasing the ability of your abdomen to stretch to accommodate the uterus. This also makes the connective tissue more likely to separate. Separation is painless, but can increase the pain in your back because your back muscles will need to take over some of the abdominal work of supporting your body.
To safely strengthen your abdominals, be careful how much strain you put on your stomach. Even using excessive force while emptying the bowels can increase the separation of the recti muscles. Care should also be taken to avoid abdominal exercises that require you to lie on your back, which can decrease oxygen for mother and baby after the first trimester. The following are examples of abdominal exercises generally believed to be safe during pregnancy.
As with any exercise, pay attention to your body. If you cannot maintain proper alignment in an exercise your muscles are not currently strong enough for that exercise. Simply select easier exercises and try that exercise again after your muscles have strengthened. As your pregnancy progresses, the stress on your abdominal muscles increases. You may find exercises you could complete easily earlier in your pregnancy become too difficult. Avoid any exercises that become too difficult.