Can You Do Crunches While Pregnant? Exercises to Avoid While Expecting

By Willow Breckenridge | Jul 1, 2022

The exercise guidelines for pregnant women have changed. For example, the old advice to keep your heart rate below 140 beats a minute has now gone the way of the dodo, although you should monitor your exertion. 

However, some exercises remain inadvisable when you’re expecting because of the health risks they pose to your unborn. Can you do crunches while pregnant? Here are five general moves to avoid. 

1. Avoid Lying on Your Back

To answer the first question — can you do crunches while pregnant — you should give this move a pass. Any exercise that requires extended time on your back is a bad idea while you’re expecting. 

Why? The weight of your baby puts pressure on your inferior vena cava. This vessel returns blood to your heart. The theory is that less blood returning equals less to the developing fetus, and researchers in New Zealand have found a slight increase in stillbirths in women who sleep all night on their back. 

You shouldn’t panic if you wake up and realize you’ve rolled over — but there’s no way to quantify how much supine time is too much. That’s one reason to give such moves a pass while you’re awake.

Although it’s okay to do crunches while pregnant during the first trimester only, it’s better to adjust your routine early to get into practice. Once your belly starts growing, the move will probably feel too awkward, anyway. 

2. Be Very Careful With Balance

This tip is for yogis who live for the tree and dancer poses. You might want to give these moves a pass — or do them next to a wall or a chair — as your pregnancy progresses. 

Your center of gravity shifts as you progress through your pregnancy. You’ll find that you become more front and top-heavy than usual. Additionally, your hip bones start to adjust, affecting your balance. 

The extra weight also makes it more challenging to keep yourself upright. It takes time for your body to develop the necessary muscles to support your new gait. You might even find that walking on a treadmill seems more ungainly, at least at first. Go slow and listen to your body. 

3. Just Say No to Your Sparring Partner 

A blow to your belly can have tragic results. If kickboxing is your go-to exercise routine, stick to the cardio classes that don’t involve any sparring. Even the heavy bag can pose risks as your center of gravity shifts. You might have to lower your kicks a bit, but you can still feel the fabulous leg burn. 

Likewise, you should avoid any contact sports while pregnant. You can still train, but it’s best to stay out of the game where a stray soccer ball to the belly could harm your unborn. Use this time for running drills so that you’re ready to face the competition after giving birth. 

4. Skip the Bikram Class

Bikram yoga involves practicing in a room heated to 105° Fahrenheit at 40% humidity. The idea is to replicate the environmental conditions of the Indian subcontinent where the practice originated, but it isn’t safe for mamas-to-be. 

The danger lies in overheating. While many exercises get more dangerous as your pregnancy progresses, high temperatures can do the most damage in your first trimester. Overheating during this time increases the risk of heart and neural tube defects such as spina bifida. 

It’s likewise unwise to wring out your belly like a dishrag while pregnant. Even if you can get into moves like Marichyasana D in Ashtanga, it’s best to wait until after you give birth to reclaim that binding. Your baby bump will eventually render such advice moot, but in the meantime, consider gentle yin or restorative classes. 

5. Go Easy on the Exertion 

Finally, pregnancy increases the load on your heart, which is why doctors used to advise keeping your pulse relatively low. However, women in good condition can continue pumping it up as long as they mindfully tune into their bodies and know when to say when. Cardiac output — how hard your heart pumps — increases by 30% to 50% while pregnant, meaning you might tire more easily than usual. 

Problems sometimes arise when well-conditioned, athletic women try to push through pain and cramps the way they did before becoming pregnant. However, doing so can lead to overheating or worse. Use a heart rate monitor and keep an eye on your numbers if you’re one of those who don’t feel like you’re working out at all unless you’re panting a bit. 

Can You Do Crunches While Pregnant 

Exercise benefits pregnant moms in many ways. However, it does make certain movements inadvisable. 

Please skip the moves above until after you give birth. While you can do crunches while pregnant during the first trimester only, it’s better to update your routine for the next nine months. 

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