Pregnancy Abdominal Exercise

Pregnancy Abdominal Exercise

This information is provided as a general information and a guide only and clients are advised to consult with their own caregiver for further advice.

Giving your baby a hug- using your abdominal muscles in pregnancy


There are 4 layers of abdominal muscles that support the abdominal wall and your back/pelvic joints and, in pregnancy, your baby. One of the most important layers is the deepest or core layer of muscles. These abdominal muscles are the ones that help provide your body with core stability. These deep muscles (called transversus) work with the pelvic floor muscles like a team.

 Core stability describes the ability to activate deep muscles of the back, abdominal and pelvic areas in order to support and stabilise the spine and pelvis. Good core stability enables the prime mover muscles in the legs and arms and trunk to move efficiently without placing stresses on the back, pelvis or other related areas. It’s like having strong foundations on which to build your house upon. This is extra important during pregnancy, when, as muscles stretch to accommodate the baby, they can become weak and lack ability to continue to support the back unless they are activated and strengthened regularly. Hormonal influences also change the way these muscles function and as relaxin acts to allow a release of soft tissue, muscles can become weakened.

 Correct control and coordination of these muscles helps to prevent and improve back pain, decrease repeat episodes of back injury, decrease stress incontinence (lack of bladder control when intra abdominal pressure increases such as when you cough, sneeze, laugh or run), support pelvic organs in their proper place, support the uterus and growing baby and helps you to feel great and look good!

 During Pregnancy Pilates classes, you will learn to correctly activate pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles in different positions, and be encouraged to exercise these muscles daily and use them in everyday life. It’s like giving your baby a gentle hug!

Abdominal Tightening…

Choose a comfortable position on your side or on all fours or sitting on an exercise ball. In early pregnancy before 18 weeks you may lie on your back. Once you have achieved good technique you can also perform the exercises in standing.

 As you breathe out gently engage the pelvic floor by squeezing around the anus, vagina and urethra and gently lifting up the pelvic floor. At the same time imagine the action of drawing the hips in and across the body to the midline. Imagine a wide hipster belt that you need to tighten by 1 notch. Avoid hollowing the upper abdomen. Keep breathing as naturally as possible while maintaining the hold of your pelvic floor and abdominals for 5 seconds. Rest and repeat a few times until you feel like the muscles are tiring. Increase the time you hold for up to 15 seconds as you improve and also increase the repetitions to 15 times. As your pregnancy progresses the muscles become more stretched, and it may become more difficult to achieve as good and isolated contractions.

Pilates is an ideal exercise class as it is designed to strengthen the deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. These exercises can be performed in positions that are suitable for women at all stages of pregnancy such as on hands and knees. Such exercises may take the stress off the back and pelvic floor, and help position the baby for delivery. 

 Tip for daily use; When you lift, push or pull any objects use your pelvic floor and abs just like in the exercise above,to support your back and internal organs.  


So, draw up that pelvic floor, gently tighten your deep abdominal muscles and give your baby a hug!

See also Separated Abdominals.