New mamas have questions. Lots of them — and pilates pro, Andrea Speir, has answers for a few of our toughest fitness Qs. A bun in the oven hasn’t stopped Andrea from maintaining a commitment to fitness (and an aspirational bod to boot), and we have to say we’re impressed.

We’ve asked he about how she lives well — and stays in shape — with a baby on board, and her uber-approachable answers about working out while pregnant are just what the doctor ordered…

As a gal in the third trimester of my first pregnancy, I can assure you, I have gone through every level of curiosity – from quick Internet searches, to ordering 12 books on Amazon, to late-night panicked texts to friends and my doctor. As our bodies change and we grow this beautiful life, there are a lot of questions that arise regarding what we can and can’t we do, and what should we be doing to assure a healthy baby, a healthy pregnancy, a strong and able labor and postpartum recovery. As a pre- and postnatal specialist, I have spent years teaching pregnant women safe and effective fitness and I am here to answer the 3 most common questions I get asked by women as they venture through this amazing journey.

Can I safely work my abs?

AB-solutely! (Pun intended.) That being said, you will modify your core workout throughout your pregnancy. When you do your core work, think about gently hugging your baby with your abdominals versus deeply scooping them in and up along your spine to safely and efficiently engage your core.

In the first trimester, the core work you have been previously doing is still fine. The general rule of thumb is that it is okay to continue the workout routine you have already been doing since your body is aware of what it is and is used to the exertion, but don’t begin anything new and taxing for the first time. If you are high risk, you would, of course, absolutely want to clear any exercise with your doctor first. Pilates and yoga are something you could begin for the first time though, since all the work is about elongation and sculpting versus compression on the joints.

In the second trimester, your abdominals begin to get a bit more stretched as your bump begins to make its appearance. At this point, the core work will need to change. As the baby bump grows and the abdominals get pushed out and stretched, any extreme crunching or twisting will overly work this already tight muscle. This could lead to what is called Diastasis recti, which is essentially a tearing of the abdominal wall. If that does happen, not to worry, there are ways of cinching it back together, but of course, it’s best to work to avoid it. Instead of crunching, practice holding a curl while working legs out and at a high diagonal. Holding a side plank for 30 seconds/side is also a fantastic exercise throughout pregnancy.

In the third trimester, you do want to work your core, but limit it to simple movements, similar to what you did in the second trimester. It’s important not to completely cut out your core work throughout your pregnancy because you need strong abdominals to support the weight of your growing baby. You also need strong abs to push during labor and will need the muscle memory of your core to help cinch your midsection back postpartum.

What is my pelvic floor and why does it matter?

As you begin to change how you think about engaging your abs, you will begin to engage your pelvic floor muscles much more than you probably ever have. These are the muscles that run from your spine to the pubic bone and essentially hold the weight of your organs and uterus. As your baby grows, the pubic bones begin to slowly separate to help hold the weight of the baby. This thins and stretches the muscles of the pelvic floor while at the same time adding pressure to them. Therefore, it is important to begin to strengthen this area. The best way to engage this area is to think about what it feels like when you hold your pee. Those are your pelvic muscles engaging. As you workout now and you think about “hugging your baby” with your core, also think about “holding your pee.” This will keep this area engaged and active.

Can I workout my Entire pregnancy?

Yes, you can, assuming your doctor hasn’t given you other advice. Working out throughout your pregnancy will help your circulation, which is key for sleep, helping to prevent leg cramps and overall health. Keeping your body strong and able will come into play during the athletic feat of labor and will be key in helping your body heal and recover after your beautiful baby is here.

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