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If you are short on time the quick answer is it will depend on where you are in your pregnancy.
It is generally considered safe to continue doing both sit-ups and crunches in the first trimester of your pregnancy but not in the second or third trimester.
Considering how much stretching your ab muscles go through during your pregnancy in order to accommodate your ever-growing baby, you won’t be the first to wonder how to keep those muscles in shape and speed up recovery after birth.
We have taken a closer look at the dos and don’ts of these exercises during pregnancy. For a host of pregnancy information, check out our pregnancy guide.
Table of Contents
Can Pregnant Women Do Sit-Ups?
Crunches and sit-ups are easy and generally safe to do in the first trimester of pregnancy but should be stopped after this point (around twelve weeks).
If you do plan to do crunches up to the 12-week mark, it is so important that you take the right precautions.
Lying flat on your back when you are further into your pregnancy can lower your blood pressure and cause dizziness which is why it is strongly advised that you do not do crunches or sit-ups.
In addition to this, you may experience many different symptoms such as vomiting and fainting.
These symptoms occur due to the increased fetus cramping the internal abdominal space and possibly putting pressure on the vena cava which supplies the heart with deoxygenated blood.
You may experience disorientated states because your blood circulation slows, if this happens it’s best to lay on your left side to allow the heart to receive enough blood. You could also try some yoga poses.
Should You Check With a Doctor Before Starting To Exercise?
It’s important to check with your doctor if you’re ever unsure about something during your pregnancy especially if it’s concerning something that could put a strain on your body.
If you’ve had a smooth sailing pregnancy whilst completing regular exercise your doctor might say that it’s fine to continue but remember that straining your body can lead to problems so always stick to what you’re comfortable with.
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How Can Sit-Ups Be Done While Pregnant?
Sit-ups can be done in the comfort of your own home with no equipment needed.
- Grab a mat and place it on the floor, making sure you have plenty of room and lay on it with a flat back.
- Bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor so that your legs create an arch.
- Place your hands behind your head or ears.
- Breathe out and lift your torso towards your knees.
- Breath in and return back to your starting position with your back flat against the floor, this counts as one rep.
- Repeat for 3 sets of 10 reps.
Things To Remember While Doing Sit-Ups When Pregnant
It’s so important to take the right precautions which means finding a comfortable place to work out, keeping an eye on your body and mood, and stopping if or when you experience any symptoms such as pain.
- Always drink enough water along with a balanced diet.
- Don’t wear tight-fitting clothing that could cut off circulation.
- Don’t do your workouts in harsh sunlight and always try to complete them inside.
- It’s ok to miss a day now and then.
- Keep an eye on your body temperature, make sure you keep your exercise light so that it doesn’t get too high.
- Don’t work out if you are ill, tired, or have new symptoms.
- Listen to your body, only workout when you want to.
- Do not attempt crunches if you are pregnant with twins.
- Stick to less than 20 reps per set.
Benefits of Doing Sit-Ups and Abdominal Crunches While Pregnant
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Crunches strengthen your abs which can help support your back, bump and help during labor. This happens because you improve their hardness and elasticity.
- A strong core helps improve overall strength.
- Can lower intense back pain.
- Supports the back muscles better which are strained due to the growing uterus.
- Develop better balance and posture.
- Supports pelvic muscles and therefore helps during labor.
- Helps recover faster after giving birth by keeping the abdominal region healthy.
When Is It Time To Stop Doing Sit-Ups?
Five occasions when it’s time to stop crunches:
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded.
- Experiencing strange pain or discomfort.
- Difficulties breathing.
- Any bleeding or discharge.
Avoiding Sit-Ups During The Second and Third Trimester
Sit-ups should be avoided during the second and third trimester as they pose many health risks but you’ll most probably find them difficult to do anyway.
Even though this form of abdominal exercise is strongly discouraged, that doesn’t mean you should completely forget about those muscles.
Your stomach muscles are crucial to giving birth as they are one of the many muscles that help push your baby out, so finding safe alternatives to help them grow is always a bonus.
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Strengthening these muscles will help protect your back and support your bump during your pregnancy and your pelvic floor also gets a workout as it is involved when exercising the core.
The main muscle to focus on is called the transversus abdominis (TVA) which will be a big help in getting your stomach back to normal after your little one is born.
An easy way to activate this muscle is by breathing in deeply and letting your chest expand as you exhale whilst pulling in your tummy, almost as if you were wearing a corset.
Make sure you can still breathe deeply and slowly but other than that, hold for a few seconds, release and repeat. Aim for 50-100 of these and 50-100 pelvic floor squeezes a day.
Can sit-ups cause miscarriage in early pregnancy?
Historically, women have been told not to exercise during the first trimester in order to lower risks of miscarriage but there are no direct links between exercise and miscarriage.
It’s sometimes safer to exercise than not if you have an uncomplicated pregnancy.
Can sit-ups hurt the baby?
Sit-ups won’t hurt your baby but can cause pain and discomfort for you later on as they begin to take up more room.
Can exercise cause a miscarriage in the first trimester?
There is no direct link between exercise and miscarriage in the first trimester. Exercise can be very beneficial during the first few weeks of pregnancy as it helps to reduce some very common symptoms such as swollen feet, lack of sleep, and anxiety.
The Final Thought
Your body goes through huge changes during the course of your pregnancy and it is at this time that you really need to listen to it.
If your body is telling you that it is too tired and needs to rest – listen to it and rest. If it is telling you that a particular exercise is uncomfortable to do – stop doing it.
Of course, it is important to stay fit and healthy during your pregnancy and there are many benefits to exercising those abdominal muscles but sit-ups and crunches are probably not the best options past 12 weeks.
Check out our week-by-week guide to pregnancy.