If you google this question ‘Can I do a plank when pregnant?’ you’ll be bombarded with articles that all contradict each other. Some people think it’s absolutely fine, others will be completely against it.
So what should you do?
Firstly, lets talk a little about what happens to your core when you’re pregnant.
The Separation of your Stomach Muscles – Diastasis Recti
Some women may already have this before they are pregnant and never know about it. It also affects men – have you seen those beefed up guys with the big dip/gap running down the centre between their abs – that’s it – their muscles have separated too, but in this case it is because their abdominal muscles are too tight.
When pregnant, it is thought that the hormone ‘Relaxin’ relaxes the linea alba (which runs down the centre and is often where you see the darker line on your skin during pregnancy), in combination with both the outward pressure from your growing uterus and general poor core function, the separation will occur.
At least two out of three pregnant women will suffer from Diastisis Recti and most will not know that they have it.
Separation is also worsened in those first few months, where pregnant women feel ‘fat’ not ‘pregnant’ so they try to push out their bellies to make themselves more noticeably pregnant. By constantly pushing your belly out, you are reducing the strength and integrity of your abdominal muscles, by not giving them the opportunity to contract and stay strong, so when the extra pressure of your uterus becomes a problem later in pregnancy, your muscles are already weak, unable to support the pressure and weight of your bump and are therefore even more prone to separation.
Does it matter that my Stomach Muscles have Separated?
Yes! It can be a real problem post-partum.
The good news is, that of the women who have Diastisis Recti when pregnant, only one third will find their separation is indefinite and will need to be seen by a professional to aid the recovery. One third however is still a large proportion of the population, and fixing Diastisis Recti is another stress a new mum-to-be really doesn’t need. So why not prevent or minimise it whilst you’re pregnant to save yourself the worry?
What are the effects of the Separation?
Poor trunk stability and mobility – you might find getting up from bed or off of the floor more difficult, you’ll feel less stable when doing your day to day activities.Posture issues – your spine will curve because your core is no longer holding you in the correct position.Back Pain – largely related to the poor posture and stress added to your back because your core muscles are no longer functioning correctly
Pelvic Floor Dysfunctions
Hernia – your internal organs can pop through the walls of your muscles because they are no longer together.
Pelvic Organ Prolapse – again, there is no longer the strength and support for these organs to remain in the correct position
Stretch Marks – while it is known that stretch marks are also hereditary, having weak abdominal muscles allows your pregnant belly to stick out even further than it would have if your core was strong and together. By your belly sticking out further, that already delicate skin is stretched even more than it needs to be.
Cosmetic defects – you are likely to continue looking a little bit pregnant even after your post-partum recovery period. This is because your stomach muscles are lax and they basically ‘let everything hang out’ rather than being strong and stable and keeping your abdomen within itself.
This is why planks, press ups, spinal flexion exercises (sit ups, even sitting straight up when you’re getting out of bed in the morning etc) and rotation exercises (particularly sit ups with twists) are not to be performed when pregnant for the vast majority of the population.
If you want to exercise is a safe and guided environment then join one of our Pregnancy Classes and be confident that you are doing the best for your body. We train your abdominals to remain strong.
We aim to help prepare your body for pregnancy and labour, minimising the risks of conditions like diastasis recti. Prevention is best!