What activities or sports are off-limits during my pregnancy?
“Scuba diving is a major no-no because of the oxygen considerations. With other activities, you need to weigh the benefits versus the potential risks,” says Renee Jeffreys, M.S., an exercise physiologist in Cincinnati, and personal trainer with Fitness for Women (www.fitnessforwomenonline.com). After 15 weeks, the risks of falling and abdominal trauma become dangerous, so an aggressive game of basketball—where elbows are being thrown—wouldn’t be a good idea.
As for solo pursuits, take a break from potentially traumatic activities such as surfing, horseback riding, downhill skiing, mountain biking, inline skating and vigorous racquet sports after your first trimester. “When you’re pregnant, your center of balance is constantly changing and you might not be aware of it. Falling on your abdomen could cause some real damage to the fetus, or even miscarriage,” says Jeffreys, who also is the co-author of Fit to Deliver: An Innovative Prenatal and Postpartum Fitness Program (Hartley & Marks, 2005). You also should avoid the sudden directional changes that take place in step aerobics and other kinds of aerobics classes, and you may want to limit these activities depending on the progress of your pregnancy and fitness level.
Can I do ab exercises while I’m
pregnant, and if so, what’s the point?
While doing abdominal exercises now won’t give you abs of steel, they will strengthen your core (and back) and make you aware of all the muscles you will use during the pushing phase of labor. Strengthening your core muscles also can help relieve pregnancy-related back pain.
Even if you’re having a complication-free pregnancy, exercise caution as you work your already-taxed ab muscles. “After four months, you have to be more careful about which exercises you do, as you could pull a muscle,” Downs cautions. For this reason, you should avoid twisting movements. (You also should avoid moves that require you to lie on your back in the second and third trimesters; see the question at right.)
Here’s a safe, effective ab move: Sit upright with your hands on your belly. Take a deep breath in through your nose, then exhale through your mouth as you draw your ab muscles in toward your spine. Do 10 repetitions and build up to 20 reps, 3 times a day. This helps strengthen your abdominals, especially the deep transverse muscle, which helps support your lower back throughout pregnancy and assists in the pushing phase of labor.