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The Dark Ages of Motherhood are over now, and almost every person on the planet got the message: exercise during pregnancy is officially allowed by all competent medical professionals. Instead of telling pregnant women to avoid exercise entirely, prenatal care providers now advise their clients (because “patient” sounds so clinical for something that's not an illness) to work out regularly. Prenatal exercise isn't just harmless, it's actually very beneficial.
Your average modern pregnant woman knows all about yoga and pilates and goes jogging, swimming, or cycling. She may use dumbbells without worrying about her baby's safety, and she is also aware that she does need to pay close attention to her body and to stop if anything hurts.
Abdominal exercises are the sad exception in the prenatal fitness evolution of the last few decades. Many expectant mothers still think that abdominal exercise is a bad idea. There are probably two reasons for that. The first is that abdominal exercise is “eerily” close to the unborn baby, and the second is that sit-ups, the most famous abdominal exercise out there, are impossible to perform once the uterus reaches a decent size.
Thankfully, there are abdominal exercises that are perfectly safe to perform during the roughly 40 weeks of pregnancy. Taking your abdominals and your whole core (including of course your pelvic floor muscles, for which you'll be doing Kegels) seriously will result in a healthier and more enjoyable pregnancy, may give you an easier birth, and will speed your postpartum recovery up considerably.
This can compress crucial blood vessels and compromise the baby's blood supply, which comes from its placenta.
What kind of abdominal exercises are best during pregnancy, then?
One great prenatal abdominal exercise starts off with the mom to-be on her hands and knees. The mom's back is parallel to the floor, there is no restriction of her bloodflow, and her other internal organs including the uterus are in their natural position as well. What could be a better starting position?
From the hands-and-knees position, the woman lifts her right leg and left hand to form a continuous line with her spine. After being in that position for up to 15 seconds, she slowly returns her arm and leg to the starting position. The exercise requires a fair bit of balance and focus, but women trying to perform it should never forget to “tuck” their abdominal muscles in as they perform repetitions. Unless you do that, you won't get a good workout.
Don't hold your breath while your arm and leg are lifted, and instead breathe in a natural, relaxed manner. After you have done a number of repetitions of the exercise using the same arm-leg combination (say five to ten, depending on your fitness level), switch the exercise around and work the opposite arm-leg pair. Pregnant women who repeat this exercise twice a day, in the morning and evening, will have pretty toned abs.