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

In This Article

    Is the BabyBjörn portable travel crib worth it?

    100% unequivocally yes.

    I have this weird brown birthmark on the bottom of my right foot near my pinkie toe and my mother always said, "That means you'll never stay still. You'll travel everywhere." (She's full of interesting superstitions like that.) I'm not sure if it was a self-fulfilling prophecy or what but I've always had a love for travel, and before we had a child (in those glorious pre-pandemic times), my husband and I traveled all over Europe, did two road trips across different parts of the United States and even flew all the way around the world to visit my family in the Philippines.

    I had this weird idea that I had to get all my traveling in before I became a mom. Because once you become a mom, you just become content sitting at home with the kids, right?

    Eh, wrong.

    Keep reading Show less

    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    With fall in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in outside-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


    Detective set

    Plan Toys detective set

    This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


    Water play set

    Plan Toys water play set

    Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


    Wooden rocking pegasus

    plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

    Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


    Croquet set

    Plan Toys croquet set

    The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


    Wooden digital camera

    fathers factory wooden digital camera

    Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


    Wooden bulldozer toy

    plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


    Pull-along hippo

    janod toys pull along hippo toy

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


    Balance board

    Plan Toys balance board

    Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    Cameron Diaz on having a baby at 47: 'You really have to work hard for it'

    "The only pressure for me now is I have to live to be, like, 107, you know? No pressure!"

    This is the decade that saw the face of first-time motherhood change. The number of first-time mamas under 30 is shrinking, while more and more women are becoming moms after 40.

    Cameron Diaz is one of them. The actress and businesswoman, now 48, became a mom in January at the age of 47. In a new episode of Naomi Campbell's YouTube series, No Filter, Diaz opens up about what it's like to become a mom in your fourth decade.

    "A lot of people do it the other way around ... they get married [and] have a family in their youth," says Diaz."I'm kind of doing it in the second half of my life."

    Keep reading Show less