Pregnancy is a magical time filled with many changes, including the expanding of the belly and the stretching of the abdominal wall. But with these changes come some challenges, such as the dreaded diastasis recti. As a pregnant woman, it’s essential to maintain a strong core and pelvic floor to support your growing baby and prevent any unwanted surprises.
One exercise that is often recommended for core strength is planks. However, as with any exercise during pregnancy, there are specific considerations to keep in mind, especially as you progress through the first trimester to the third trimester. So, let’s understand is it safe to do planks while pregnant and how to prevent diastasis recti while keeping those abdominal muscles and pelvic floor in tip-top shape.
Is it Safe to Do Planks During Pregnancy?
Pregnancy is a time when women need to take extra care of their health, especially when it comes to physical activity. As your body changes and your baby grows, it’s important to ensure that any exercise you do is safe and beneficial for both you and your baby. Plank exercises are popular for strengthening the core muscles, but many women wonder if it’s safe to do planks during pregnancy?
In general, planks can be a safe and effective exercise for pregnant women when done correctly. However, as with any exercise during pregnancy, there are specific precautions to keep in mind, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or complications.
During the first trimester, it’s generally safe to continue doing planks if you were already doing them before pregnancy. However, it’s essential to listen to your body and modify the exercise as needed. If you feel any discomfort, dizziness, lower back pain, or nausea while doing planks, stop and rest.
Abdominal Wall and Pelvic Floor
One of the main concerns with planks during pregnancy is the risk of diastasis recti. This condition occurs when the abdominal muscles separate and can lead to back pain, poor posture, and incontinence. To prevent diastasis recti, it’s essential to engage the transverse abdominis, the deepest layer of abdominal muscles, and avoid exercises that place too much stress on the abdominal wall, such as traditional crunches.
The pelvic floor is another area to consider during planks. The pelvic floor muscles support the bladder, uterus, and rectum, and can weaken during pregnancy. To prevent any strain or too much pressure on the pelvic floor, it’s important to engage the muscles before, during, and after planks.
Second and Third Trimesters
As you enter the second and third trimesters, modifications to planks become necessary to accommodate your growing belly. It’s best to avoid traditional planks on your stomach and instead perform modified planks on your knees or against a wall. It’s also important to avoid holding the plank for too long and focus on proper form.
Benefits of Planks During Pregnancy
Planks are an effective exercise that can help pregnant women in several ways. Here are some benefits of planks during pregnancy:
- Strengthening the Core Muscles: Planks target the ab muscles and back muscles, which can become weaker during pregnancy. Strengthening these muscles can help reduce the risk of back pain and improve posture.
- Improving Posture: Planks help to align the spine, which can improve posture during pregnancy. Proper posture can reduce pressure on the back and neck muscles, reducing discomfort.
- Reducing Back Pain: Pregnancy can cause back pain due to the added weight on the spine. Planks can strengthen the muscles around the spine, reducing the strain on the back and alleviating pain.
- Enhancing Overall Body Strength and Flexibility: Planks work multiple muscle groups simultaneously, which can improve overall body strength and flexibility. This can help pregnant women prepare for labor and delivery and recover more quickly after giving birth.
Risks and Precautions Associated with Planks During Pregnancy
While planks can provide many benefits, pregnant women must also be aware of the risks and precautions associated with this exercise. Here are some risks of planks during pregnancy:
- Strain on the Abdominal Muscles: During pregnancy, the abdominal muscles stretch and weaken. Planks can put additional strain on these muscles, leading to discomfort or injury.
- Pressure on the Pelvic Floor: Planks can put pressure on the pelvic floor, leading to discomfort or injury. This pressure can also cause or worsen urinary incontinence.
- Risk of Diastasis Recti: Diastasis Recti is a condition where the abdominal muscles separate, leaving a gap. Planks can exacerbate this condition, leading to more severe separation and pain.
- Overexertion and Fatigue: During pregnancy, the body is working hard to support the growing baby. Overexertion during exercise can lead to fatigue, exhaustion, or other complications.
Guidelines for Safe Planking During Pregnancy
Pregnant women should follow specific guidelines to ensure safe planking during pregnancy. Here are some guidelines to consider:
- Consultation with Healthcare Provider: Before starting any exercise program during pregnancy, it is essential to consult with your healthcare provider. Your provider can help you determine the best exercises to suit your needs and reduce the risk of complications.
- Proper Form and Technique: It is crucial to maintain proper form and technique when performing planks. Pregnant women should avoid arching their back, rounding their shoulders, or holding their breath.
- Modifications and Alternatives: Pregnant women should modify their planking routine to suit their changing bodies. They can do this by performing modified planks, such as the side plank, or using a stability ball.
- Listening to the Body and Taking Breaks: Pregnant women should listen to their bodies and avoid overexertion. Taking breaks when needed and staying hydrated can help reduce the risk of complications.
Other Safe Exercises During Pregnancy
In addition to planks, several safe exercises can help pregnant women maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. Here are some safe exercises during pregnancy:
- Prenatal Yoga: Prenatal yoga can help pregnant women maintain flexibility, reduce stress, and prepare for labor and delivery. It is a low-impact exercise that is safe for most pregnant women.
- Walking: Walking is a simple and effective exercise that can help pregnant women stay active. It can help maintain cardiovascular health, reduce swelling in the legs, and improve mood. Brisk walking is no only a safe exercise but also a great to start a fitness routine.
- Swimming: Swimming is a low-impact excellent exercise that can help pregnant women stay active without putting pressure on their joints. It can also reduce swelling and relieve back pain.
- Low-Impact Aerobics: Low-impact aerobics is a great exercise and can help pregnant women maintain cardiovascular health and improve overall body strength. However, pregnant women should avoid high-impact aerobics, which can increase the risk of injury.
Performing planks during pregnancy can be a great way to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle while strengthening the core muscles. However, it’s important to be mindful of your body’s changes and take necessary precautions to ensure your safety and that of your growing baby. Modifications to the plank position and incorporating other core exercises can help reduce the pressure on the abdominal wall and pelvic floor muscles.
Plank variations, such as modified side plank and wall planks, are also great exercises to try. Remember, always listen to your body and stop if you experience any discomfort or pain. By incorporating safe abdominal exercises, like planks, into your workout routine, you can improve blood flow and maintain a healthy pregnancy, all while keeping that baby bump in check.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2019). Exercise During Pregnancy. Retrieved from https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/exercise-during-pregnancy
- American Pregnancy Association. (2021). Diastasis Recti During and After Pregnancy. Retrieved from https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/diastasis-recti-1122/
- BodyBuilding.com. (n.d.). Plank. Retrieved from https://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/plank
- The Mayo Clinic. (2019). Pregnancy and exercise: Baby, let’s move!. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy-and-exercise/art-20046896
- NICE Guidelines. (2019). Antenatal care for uncomplicated pregnancies. Retrieved from https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg62/chapter/1-Guidance#exercise-during-pregnancy
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Disclaimer: The content of this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.