It's hard to fathom exercising your abs when you can hardly see your feet, but light core workouts may ease pregnancy-associated back pain and make your postpartum recovery a bit quicker. Although strength-training exercises -- including abdominal moves -- are safe for most pregnant women, talk to your obstetrician first. A woman with a high-risk pregnancy or a history of miscarriage may need to avoid exercise for her own safety and that of her baby.
There's no need to get out dumbbells for strength training. Using your own body for resistance is safer during pregnancy. One abdominal exercise that will relieve pregnancy-related back pain is a pelvic tilt. Stand with your back against the wall and relax. Inhale and press the small of your back into the wall, then exhale and release. You can do the same exercise on hands and knees, a position that may ease back and pelvic pain during labor and facilitate delivery.
Deep breathing exercises offer an excellent way to tone your core and prepare for the stresses of labor and delivery. Sit or stand with your hand on your belly and take a slow, deep breath through your nose. Allow the air to fill your abdomen so that your belly rises by an inch. Hold your breath for a few seconds, then breathe out slowly through your mouth. Contract your abdominal muscles to force out the last bits of air. Practice other relaxation techniques, such as meditation and visualization, while you breathe.
Focusing exclusively on the abdominal muscles is a bad idea, whether or not you're pregnant. Instead, think of your core as the rotational point for your whole body. When you're doing aerobic exercise, such as walking or jogging, tighten your core to keep your body balanced. During pregnancy, you're particularly prone to injury, since your center of gravity has shifted. Being mindful of your core will help prevent injury. Choose strength-training exercises that involve multiple muscle groups. For example, the plank pose uses the arms, glutes, thighs and abdominal muscles. Begin on your hands and knees with your wrists in line with your shoulders. Step back with one foot after the other. Your body should be completely flat from head to ankles. Hold the pose for 10 seconds, then relax back into the hands-and-knees position. Work your way up to holding the pose for 30 to 60 seconds.
Unmodified crunches can cause injuries or tears in the abdominal muscles during pregnancy, according to University of Rochester Medical Center. Ask your obstetrician for a modification or avoid crunches altogether. In the second and third trimesters, avoid abdominal exercises that require you to lie on your back. When you're in a supine position, the baby's weight can compress important blood vessels, lowering your blood pressure and potentially depriving your baby of oxygen.