Can You Do Sit-Ups While Pregnant?

Many expecting Moms still want to stay as fit and healthy as possible during their pregnancy.

And, in fact, there are actually quite a few benefits to working your abdominal muscles around this time period. Sit-ups, however, probably aren’t the best way to do so. 

Now, during the very first trimester, sit-ups shouldn’t pose much of an issue.

However, once you’ve moved past that first trimester and you start to have that more noticeable bump, it’s probably time to put sit-ups on the list with alcohol, raw cookie dough, and a selection of cheeses.

You know, the ‘I’ll come back for you someday’ list. 

Thankfully, there are other ab workouts that you can try instead that will keep your core nice and strong. 

The Benefits Of Ab Workouts During Pregnancy

There are actually quite a few different benefits to keeping your core strong during your pregnancy and the postpartum period. Let’s take a look at some of them now. 

  • Supports Your Pelvic Floor Muscles – Supporting your pelvic floor muscles is important during pregnancy as they are responsible for controlling your bladder and helping your digestive organs. Stronger pelvic floor muscles will help reduce the need to frequently urinate while you’re pregnant (can you do squats while pregnant? Find out here). 
  • Decreases Back Pain – During pregnancy many women suffer from back pain which is caused by the pull of the baby bump. A stronger core will help support the entire body and thus alleviates some of the weight straining your back muscles. This in turn means that you suffer from less back pain. 
  • Easier Labor & Postpartum Recovery – Now, this one might be more of an old wives tale than scientific fact. But many women have stated that a stronger core has helped them push more effectively. There are no scientific studies to prove this association though. 

The Risks Of Ab Workouts During Pregnancy

While there may be benefits to ab workouts, not all of them are applicable or safe for pregnant women to engage in. And sit-ups and crunches are two examples of this. 

  • Diastasis Recti – The movement that takes place during a sit-up or crunch can cause your abdominal muscles to bulge out. This can heavily contribute to diastasis recti which is when your abdominal muscles actually separate at the midline. 

So let’s take a closer look at how and why this happens. 

  • Hormonal Changes – During pregnancy, you’ll experience plenty of hormonal changes that are responsible for a whole host of different things. Two hormones that increase during pregnancy are called relaxin and progesterone. These hormones relax your ligaments and joints so that there is more space for your growing baby. 
  • Stretches & Separation – If you excessively stretch as you do during sit-ups with these relaxed joints and ligaments there’s a good chance that these abdominal muscles will separate completely. 
  • Deterioration Over Time – Over time this problem can get worse and worse. It can even lead to permanent damage that will require serious surgery. 

As you can see, the risks that come with sit-ups massively outweigh the benefits, and that is why it is always recommended that pregnant women abstain from crunches and sit-ups. 

Complications Of Lying On Your Back During Pregnancy

It’s not just the potential threat of Diastasis Recti that is a problem though. Laying on your back for any long period of time after the first trimester also poses its own risk.

Can You Do Sit-Ups While Pregnant (1)

Let’s take a look at that now 

  • Compressing The Vena Cava – The vena cava is the large vein responsible for transporting blood to the heart from around the body. When you are pregnant you carry a lot of extra weight; the baby, placenta, and amniotic fluid. All this weight bears down on the vena cava when you lie down and this can cause constricted blood flow. 

As mentioned above, this typically doesn’t become an issue until the second trimester when there is enough weight to constrict the blood flow.

However, every pregnancy is a little different so I would always consult your healthcare provider before committing to anything for certain. 

Pregnancy-Safe Core Exercises

So, now that we know that sit-ups aren’t really the best option for those who are pregnant, let’s take a look at some of the core exercises that you can do.

Again, always double-check with your healthcare provider before attempting any new exercises. 

  • Cat-Cow Pose – Position yourself on all fours. Bend your spine inwards towards the ground while inhaling and then exhaling as you set your spine back to its initial position. 
  • Seated Pelvic Tilts – Grab a chair and sit down. Keep your spine straight as you inhale, and then as you exhale begin to tuck your pelvis in towards your navel. 
  • Bird Dog – Position yourself on all fours. Make sure your shoulders and hoops are parallel to the floor as you raise your right arm and left leg. Hold for a couple of seconds and then return to the initial position before switching sides. 
  • Modified Side Plank – Using your right arm and knee, prop yourself up. Lift your hips to create a straight line. Hold for a couple of seconds before returning to your initial position and then swap sides. 

Final Thoughts

While you may be okay to do sit-ups during your first trimester, anytime after they should really be avoided as they have several health implications.

The stretching part of a sit-up can lead to muscle separation and lying down can cut off blood circulation to your heart. Neither of these are ideal for keeping both Mom and baby safe. 

While staying fit and healthy during pregnancy and postpartum can be important, it is important to also not put too much pressure on yourself.

During postpartum don’t rush to get back into a fitness routine. Your body has been through a lot and is slowly and gradually recovering. Don’t push it too hard. 

Be kind to yourself – you’re doing great!

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