I can’t stress enough the importance of keeping your transversus abdominis (core muscles) strong before, during and after pregnancy. These are the muscles that support your whole inner unit, assist with delivery and can help keep backache at bay; Especially with the extra weight of that precious bundle you may be carrying around.
However when pregnant it’s important to give the rectus abdominis muscle (six pack) a rest in order to give your baby space to grow.
A traditional crunch style sit-up is a poor way to target belly muscles while pregnant as it puts too much pressure on your lower back and mid-line. It can also put undue strain on the rectus muscles which are stretched over the growing uterus and rectus separation may be accentuated with this form of abdominal exercise.
Similarly supine and sit back cycling, sit back V holds, crunch hold with legs tabletop, alternate knee or toe (straight or bent legs) touches and partner crunches with medicine ball are not advisable abdominal exercises during or directly after pregnancy.
But this doesn’t mean you have to give up abdominal exercises altogether!
Using a Fitball is a fantastic way to work your abs. Offering support whilst working the rectus muscles as well as the transverse abdominals and internal obliques, it supports the pelvic floor from below.
Preventing excessive strain on the pelvis joints whilst encouraging activation of the main stabilisers of the pelvis, the ball provides an upwards force to protect and encourage pelvic floor activation.
Sitting on the ball, lying supine with legs resting on the ball (a few minutes is fine), leaning on the ball against a wall or using the ball to support the head and upper back with feet on the ground, these are all positions that are safe and comfortable for abdominal exercises.
Additionally, isometric abdominal exercises (think of pulling your belly button towards your back) and holding for 5 seconds, relaxing, and repeating 5-10 times also help maintain strong pelvic floor muscles throughout pregnancy.
The exercise program prescribed here is only a guide and may not help if done incorrectly or if the training program is inappropriate.