Trying to get pregnant? Make sure you know the bottom line on baby-making—what you don't understand can affect your bub-to-be's health.
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No one needs to point out the most obvious sign of your condition. That beautiful belly makes quite a statement. But are you taking good care of it, keeping your abdominal muscles (the ones that literally hug your baby) strong? Your abdominals provide key support for your spine during pregnancy, childbirth and, of course, afterward. “Your front supports your back, so you need some structure there,” says Bonnie Rote, R.N., B.S.N., director of the prenatal exercise program for the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America. Strong abs will prevent an aching back and reduce pressure on the pelvic floor.
During labor, you’ll use your abs to push your baby through the birth canal, and strong abs may make the going easier. Isn’t that incentive enough?
You can do the following three exercises 3–5 times a week. They are safe to do throughout pregnancy, even if you have diastasis.
1. Abdominal tightening
Get down on all fours, knees under hips and hands in line with shoulders. Your back should be flat, your body in one line from head to hips. Inhale and relax your abs, then exhale and “pull” your muscles up and in. Imagine you’re wrapping your muscles around your baby and hugging her to you. Hold for 10 seconds, breathing normally. Do 25–30 quick inward “contractions.” Pull your muscles tighter with each exhalation. Don’t allow your muscles to relax fully between contractions. Finish with another 10-second hold. Work up to 5 repetitions of 10-second holds.
2. Cross crawl
Start in the same position as 1A. Extend your right arm out in front of you and your left leg behind you, making a straight line from your fingertips to your toes. Hold for 10 seconds, switch sides and repeat. Work up to 3–5 repetitions on each side.
3. Lower-ab leg lifts
Sit on the floor, knees bent, feet flat on floor. Prop several pillows behind you so you semi-recline (make sure your head stays higher than your belly). Contract your abs, imagining that you’re wrapping your muscles around your baby. Lift your left leg off the floor, straightening knee. Slowly lower straight leg to the floor. Stop when you feel as if you can’t hold your abs in. Return to starting position. Take 2 deep breaths, but don’t allow your abs to release away from your spine; do reps. Repeat with the opposite leg. Work up to 3–5 repetitions on each side.