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The best exercise you can do when you’re pregnant

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Your abs and pelvic floor muscles do it tough when you’re expecting – and when you’re delivering. Here’s how to strengthen up and power through your pregnancy and birth.

Your abs and pelvic floor muscles do it tough when you’re expecting – and when you’re delivering. Here’s how to strengthen up and power through your pregnancy and birth.

Pelvic floor
Both in pregnancy and delivery, your pelvic floor muscles weaken, so Sports Medicine Australia (SMA) recommends you start conditioning these as early on as possible.

“The pelvic floor consists of layers of muscles that stretch like a supportive hammock from the pubic bone (in front) to the end of the backbone,” explains the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).

“By performing pelvic floor exercises, you can strengthen the muscles. This helps to reduce or avoid stress incontinence [when you leak urine] after pregnancy. All pregnant women should do pelvic floor exercises, even if you’re young and not suffering from stress incontinence now.”

Your physio can prescribe a set of tailored exercises but here are the basics for developing pelvic strength, as the NHS recommends:

  1. At first do this quickly, tightening and releasing the muscles immediately….
    - Close up your anus, pretending that you’re preventing a bowel movement
    - At the same time, draw in your vagina (as if you’re gripping a tampon)
    - Then, simultaneously (yes, it’s a three-part performance!) draw in your urethra (as if you’re stopping the flow of urine)
  2. Then do it slowly, holding the tightening for a count of 10. Then relax slowly.

Do three sets of eight squeezes, every day. One idea is to time them in with a meal, so you don’t forget.

Tummy-strengthening
Powering your tummy muscles helps you carry the weight of your bub and also fight the back pain that can develop as the hollow in your back increases, which occurs when you spine assumes a greater curve.

Try these NHS-recommended moves:

Start on all fours… knees under hips, hands under shoulders, fingers facing forward

  1. Lift your abdominals and keep your back straight
  2. Pull in your tummy muscles, raise your back towards the ceiling, curl your trunk and let your head relax gently forward (avoid letting your elbows lock)
  3. Hold for a few seconds, then return to box position, making sure your back is straight, not hollowed

Perform this exercise slowly and rhythmically 10 times, making your muscles work hard, and moving your back with care – only move it as far as is comfortable.

Voila!

References available upon request