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3 Reasons to Do Prenatal Ab Workouts

And how to make them safe for baby and you during pregnancy.

3 Reasons to Do Prenatal Ab Workouts

As your baby grows, your abdominal muscles weaken. You know what that means… It’s time to kiss those pre-pregnancy abs good-bye (temporarily) and be confident that, with some work, they will make an appearance again. Due to your weakening abdominal strength, doing abdominal exercises during pregnancy may be more challenging. But keeping up with your routine can actually be beneficial.

Some people will tell you that working your abs while expecting can be uncomfortable and unsafe to your baby. But pregnancy is different for everyone, and you may be apt to do a workout move that another mom is advised to avoid. Anecdotally, planks were okay until the end of my pregnancy, whereas laying directly on my back made it difficult to breathe during my third trimester. Fast-forward to six weeks postpartum, and deep twists got destabilizing.

If you need a little convincing to keep up with a prenatal abdominal workout routine, here are three reasons to keep working your core during pregnancy, along with tips to make your ab exercises safe for both you and baby.

1. You can alleviate or prevent back pain. Did you know that when a part of your body hurts, the source of pain is usually not at that specific location. Many pregnant women complain of back pain. As it turns out, back pain during pregnancy can be because of tighter hamstrings, the extra weight in the abdominal region pulling you forward and, yes, weaker abdominal muscles. What’s more, a strong core can actually alleviate back aches.

Since I was active before my pregnancy, my doctor told me I could maintain my exercise regimen as long as it felt okay. But during my second trimester, my lower back started to hurt after workouts. I noticed that as my core weakened, it was withstand most of the pressure from exercising. So if, like me, you experience back pain, why not strengthen your core to try and alleviate the pain?

What ab exercises you should do:

  • Interval training, combining core work like planks with cardio interval: alternating from one movement to another changed where I felt the work, taking pressure off the back.
  • Downward dog: rolling forward and back from downward dog to extended arm plank helped relieve bak ache.
  • Swimming: this is an especially helpful and gentle exercise to work your abs and keep a strong core towards the end of your pregnancy.

2. You can get back to pre-pregnancy form quicker. Pregnancy is a time to embrace the changes in your body. But once you meet baby, you may find yourself eager to see your pre-pregnancy waistline again. Women who continue to safely work their abs throughout pregnancy seem to have an easier time to re-engage those muscles postpartum. But if you have to slow down on your abdominal routine, don’t despair. Muscles remember, and you will eventually be able to return to your previous physical and fitness skills.

Just remember that this takes time, and everyone is different. As they say, “it takes nine months to stretch, it takes nine months to bounce back to that pre-pregnancy body of yours.”

As your pregnancy progresses, deep twists, such as bicycles on your back, or anything that really constricts the abdomen area are not recommended. In addition, laying on your back can be dangerous as the vein that brings blood to the abdomen and towards baby may be constricted, causing a shortening of breath.

What ab exercises you should do:

  • Forearm planks: these core exercises engage your outer obliques on a wedge. From a wedge position, place your hands behind your head.
  • Heel slides: starting on your back, if you are later in pregnancy, make sure to prop yourself up on a pillow and stay up on your elbow. With your feet on the ground, you’ll contract your abdominals and kegels as you alternate sliding each leg straight to the ground.

3. You can avoid Diastasis Recti. Diastasis Recti is the splitting of the abdominal muscles and the thinning of the tissue connecting them -- a phenomenon that is common among new moms and that can result in a gaping hole in the abdominal area. There are varying degrees of how deep the split is, and a larger one can cause back pain, pelvic floor dysfunction, and protruded inner abdominal muscles that can give you a postpartum pooch.

That’s when the type of abdominal exercise you do during pregnancy actually matters. A crunch, a deep twist and anything that requires to contract and lessen the space baby has in utero can cause the uterus to push those rectus muscles out, resulting in a deeper split. While this is not dangerous to the baby, it clearly is not what you want. The key to prevent a deeper diastasis is to engage the deeper abdominal muscles. Whatever exercise you decide to do, remember not to contract your abdominal muscles. Instead, imagine that you are pulling baby inward, towards your spine and away from the recti.

What exercises you should do:

  • Forearm plank: for this, you don’t have to contract the abdominal region -- you simply need to elongate it. When in plank, think about pulling your baby up towards your spine.
  • Knee lowering: on your back (or a wedge if further along in pregnancy), place your knees in a table top position and press your lower back into the ground. Then, lower either both legs or one leg at a time and return to table top.
  • Knee extensions: in the same positioning as the knee lowering, extend one or both legs straight out away from your midline then return to table top.
  • Side planks (preferably on forearm): place either your right or left forearm on ground. Stack one foot on top of the other or take one foot in front of the other. Lift your body body off the ground.

For all New York City mamas who want to work their core (and more) during and after pregnancy, check out our MamaFit or Buggy Barre classes this winter at The Fit Co or at Regenerative Fitness, on the Upper East Side. Use the promo code Wellrounded for a 15% discount. Offer valid until March 1, 2017. Check out schedule thefitco.nyc/schedule

This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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