Can I Do Sit Ups While Pregnant?

Doing sit ups while pregnant is a common question many expecting mothers have. Sit ups engage your core abdominal muscles, so is this safe exercise during pregnancy or should you skip it?

With your doctor’s okay, modified sit ups can be part of a healthy pregnancy fitness routine. But there are some important changes you’ll need to make.

Here’s a complete guide to doing sit ups during pregnancy safely.

Key Takeaways: Can I Do Sit Ups When Pregnant?

  • Check with your doctor before starting or continuing any exercise in pregnancy.
  • Traditional sit ups that use full range of motion are not recommended in pregnancy. TheGrowing belly changes your center of gravity and pulls on your back.
  • Modified sit ups with limited range of motion can be done instead. Focus on gentle crunches and lower ab activation.
  • Never overstretch or hollow out your back. Avoid straining or breath holding.
  • Listen to your body and stop any exercise that causes pain, cramps or discomfort.

Is It Safe To Do Sit Ups While Pregnant?

Whether sit ups are safe during pregnancy depends on:

  • How far along you are in pregnancy
  • If you’re experiencing any complications or pain
  • How the exercise is modified

Here are some general guidelines on sit ups from leading health organizations:

  • First trimester: With your doctor’s okay, regular sit ups are likely fine in the first 3 months. The bump is small and your blood volume and heart rate are still normal.
  • Second & third trimesters: Traditional sit ups are not recommended as your belly grows. The weight in front changes your center of gravity. This places strain on the back and can cause coning.
  • At any point: Immediately stop sit ups if you feel pain or instability in the belly, pelvic area or back. Switch to safe alternatives.
  • High risk pregnancies: Those with complications like bleeding, preeclampsia, etc. should avoid sit ups per doctor’s orders.

The most important thing is listening to your body and respecting your limits. Don’t push through pain or discomfort simply to keep doing regular sit ups.

Risks of Traditional Sit Ups During Pregnancy

Full sit ups with complete spinal flexion involve some risks for pregnant women. Here are the main concerns:

Changes Center of Gravity

As your belly grows, the extra weight gradually shifts your center of gravity forward. This places increased strain on the back when doing sit ups.

It also makes traditional sit ups harder to do with proper form as pregnancy progresses. Attempting full range of motion can hyperextend the back.

Can Cause Diastasis Recti

Sit ups work the rectus abdominis muscle that runs down the front of your abdomen. As the belly expands, this muscle can separate down the middle into a condition called diastasis recti.

Excessive contraction of the abs against the growing uterus from sit ups may encourage diastasis recti to develop.

This separation can lead to back pain and poor core functioning if it becomes too wide. It usually resolves postpartum but special precautions are needed until then.

Doesn’t Strengthen Entire Core

Sit ups primarily target the rectus abdominis and hip flexors. But the transverse abdominis deepest layer of the abs and the obliques are also key for core stability.

Traditional sit ups done through full range of motion do not properly activate these other muscle groups.

A strong corset of support from the entire core is crucial for supporting a growing baby bump. Isolated abs work is not sufficient.

Can Cause Rounding/Coning of the Belly

Letting the back hyperextend into a deep C shape creates a hollowing or doming in the abdomen called coning. This is when the belly pops outward like a cone between the rectus abdominal muscles.

Coning puts unhealthy strain on the abs and ligaments. It can potentially lead to abdominal muscle tears or hernias. Proper core engagement and alignment is essential to prevent coning.

Potential for Increased Intra-Abdominal Pressure

Full sit ups with forceful crunching can temporarily increase pressure inside the abdominal cavity. This is called intra-abdominal pressure (IAP).

Although strength training does not normally raise IAP to dangerous levels, heavily bearing down during sit ups is not recommended. It may restrict blood flow and is simply unnecessary.

Modifications for Safe Sit Ups During Pregnancy

The good news is sit ups can still be included during pregnancy if properly modified. Here are the key modifications to make:

Limit Range of Motion

Avoid full sit ups from flat on the floor to fully upright. These put excessive pull on the rectus abdominis against your growing bump.

Instead, aim for crunches with limited range of motion. A 30-45 degree lift from the floor is sufficient to safely activate the abs.

The partial motion keeps tension on the muscles without over stretching. Allow the rest of your back to stay grounded on the floor.

Draw In and Engage the Abs

Actively contract your transverse abdominis and pelvic floor as you crunch up. Imagine drawing your belly button in towards spine.

Don’t allow the deep abs to bulge outward. Keep them strongly pulled in to support your bump and prevent coning.

Focus on feeling the lower abs right below your belly button engage with each crunch. Avoid straining the upper abs.

No Hollowing of the Back

Never forcefully round or hollow out your lower back as this can lead to coning of the belly.

Keep the natural curve in your spine aligned as you lift your shoulders lightly off the ground. Don’t exaggerate the spinal flexion.

Avoid Breath Holding

Don’t hold your breath during crunches. Exhale on the contraction and inhale on return. This prevents unsafe spikes in intra-abdominal pressure.

Time your breathing with your movements for a smooth, controlled motion. Never force crunches to the point it’s hard to breathe.

Listen to Your Body

Pay close attention to any discomfort in your abs, pelvis, or back during crunches. Stop immediately if you feel:

  • Bulging or coning in the abdomen
  • Pulling, pinching or pain sensations
  • Cramping in the uterus
  • Round ligament pain
  • Increase in Braxton Hicks contractions
  • Lightheadedness

These are signs modified sit ups are aggravating an existing issue and should be avoided until you can discuss with your doctor.

Best Positions for Sit Ups During Pregnancy

The position you use for sit ups impacts difficulty and safety. Try these optimal positions:

Incline Position

Elevate your upper body on an exercise ball or sloped bench set to around a 30 degree incline. Avoid flat ground.

The incline shortens the range of motion for your crunch. Gravity assists you back down without strain.

An exercise ball adds instability to also challenge your balance and engage the core. Hold the ball steady as you crunch.

Knees Bent

Bend your knees and place feet flat on the floor rather than fully extending your legs.

This helps take strain off the back. Pulling the knees inward can help activate lower abs too.

Hands Behind Head

Lace your fingers gently behind your head rather than crossed over the chest.

This prevents pulling on the neck and head. Don’t clasp hands behind the neck and yank down.

Chin Tucked

Keep your chin slightly tucked as you crunch up. Don’t jut your head forward.

Top Pregnancy Sit Up Variations

These sit up alternatives provide a safe abdominal workout during pregnancy:

Modified Crunches

From an incline, perform crunches with limited range of motion by lifting shoulders only a few inches. Go slow and controlled.

Really focus on drawing lower abs in and up.

Double Crunches

Do a regular crunch then bring knees in towards chest for a double ab activation. This targets upper and lower abs.

Oblique Crunches

Add a gentle twist to activate obliques. Bring the right elbow towards the left knee, alternate sides.

Seated Abduction

Sitting upright, hold legs and slowly open and close them against light resistance. Works inner thighs and transverse abdominis.


Moderate planks engage the entire core without strain. Do them on hands and knees to reduce load.

Pelvic Tilts

Lift hips up to flatten lower back against the floor. Isolates the transverse abdominis.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Practice breathing fully into the belly to increase core awareness.

When to Avoid Sit Ups Altogether

As always, listen to your body and doctor above all else. Avoid any sit up motions if you have:

  • Diastasis recti: Abs are separated; extra precaution needed
  • Spotting/bleeding: Sudden contractions could aggravate
  • Placenta previa: Placenta covers the cervix so avoid pressure
  • Preeclampsia: Exercise may raise high blood pressure
  • Preterm labor: Contracting abs could stimulate premature contractions

If you pushed yourself doing sit ups pre-pregnancy, consider taking a full break until after delivery. Overworking abs even early on could still contribute to diastasis recti later.

Additional Tips for Safe Ab Workouts When Pregnant

  • Stay hydrated before, during and after ab exercises. Dehydration exacerbates cramps and Braxton hicks.
  • Avoid active crunches after eating a heavy meal. Give yourself 1-2 hours to digest first.
  • Warm up first with Pelvic tilts and light stretching to prepare the muscles.
  • Cool down with gentle stretches afterwards too.
  • Go slower with all motions- no jerky, forced movements. Keep control.
  • If cramps or contractions occur, drink water and rest until they pass.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing so nothing constricts the belly.
  • Place one hand gently on your belly to monitor for coning.
  • Count out loud during crunches to time inhales and exhales evenly.
  • Invest in an exercise ball and try various sizes to find the right fit as you progress in pregnancy.

When to Seek Medical Guidance

Check with your OB-GYN or prenatal provider if you have any concerns about adding sit ups to your routine. Definitely seek guidance if you notice:

  • Separation in the abdominals aka diastasis recti
  • Changes in vaginal discharge
  • Regular contractions or cramping during or after exercise
  • Warning signs like bleeding, visual disturbances, headaches
  • Persistent round ligament or pelvic pain
  • Prosperous deterioration of exercise ability

Your doctor can evaluate any symptoms and clarify if modified sit ups are appropriate for you or not. Never try to simply push through worrisome exercise pain.

How Often Should I Do Pregnancy Sit Up Routine?

Aim to include abs exercises about 2 to 3 times per week as part of your total pregnancy fitness routine. Here are some guidelines on frequency:

First Trimester: Up to 3 to 5 days a week is fine if your body is accustomed to regular abs exercises pre-pregnancy. But don’t overdo duration or intensity.

Second Trimester: Scale back to 2 to 3 gentle ab workouts spaced throughout each week. 15 to 25 crunches per session is plenty.

Third Trimester: Focus on maintaining reasonable abdominal strength 1 to 2 days a week. Avoid daily abs routines.

Always allow at least 1 full day of rest between ab workout sessions to give muscles recovery time. And reduce frequency if you notice any pain or discomfort.

It’s much more valuable to do sit ups with perfect form and control than quantity. Get the most out of smart programming over sheer volume.

Are Sit Ups Good Exercise During Pregnancy?

Done correctly, modified sit ups can be included as part of a well-rounded fitness plan. But traditional, full range sit ups involving intense crunching are best avoided.

The goal isn’t washboard abs- it’s retaining reasonable abdominal strength to properly support your changing body. Core work helps maintain posture and prevent back pain as you accommodate a growing baby.

That said, a strong core during pregnancy goes beyond the 6 pack abs. It’s also important to strengthen the pelvic floor, lower back, hips and deep transverse abdominis.

Sit ups alone are not enough, even when modified. Aim for a variety of core-focused exercises in your routine.

Be mindful of over-tiring the abs. It’s normal for your stamina to decrease as the pregnancy progresses. Avoid comparing to your pre-pregnancy capacity.

Lastly, talk to your doctor before undertaking any new fitness regimes while pregnant. They can help decide what activities are suitable for your individual case.

Common Questions about Sit Ups and Pregnancy

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about whether sit ups are advisable during pregnancy:

Are sit ups safe in the first trimester?

  • Regular full sit ups are likely fine early on but avoid overdoing duration or intensity. The first trimester is a crucial time for fetal development so take care not to overheat or fatigue the body too much.

Should you stop doing sit ups after 12 weeks?

  • Around 12 weeks, the uterus starts expanding above the pelvic bones which shifts your center of gravity. This is a good time to start modifying any traditional sit up routine and avoiding deep spinal flexion.

Can sit ups cause miscarriage early pregnancy?

  • There is no evidence that sit ups directly cause miscarriage. However, overexerting the body with intense exercise very early on could potentially impact implantation. It’s wise to err on the side of caution and not push too hard. Always discuss concerns with your doctor.

When should you completely stop doing sit ups when pregnant?

  • Most experts recommend stopping full sit ups by the start of the second trimester as the bump grows. But listen to your body and stop sooner if you notice any pain or discomfort with the exercise. Switch to safe modifications instead.

Is it OK to do crunches in third trimester?

  • Gentle crunches on an incline with limited range of motion can still be included later on but avoid daily ab routines. Focus on maintaining reasonable strength 1-2 days a week rather than intensifying.

Can sit ups induce labor if done late in pregnancy?

  • Some women use physical activity like walking, squats or pelvic tilts close to their due date to encourage the start of labor. But sit ups and crunches alone are not proven techniques for naturally inducing labor.

Always talk to your doctor before attempting to trigger labor onset. Do not exercise vigorously for this purpose without medical guidance.


Doing sit ups while pregnant is very doable with proper modifications and precautions. Traditional, full sit ups are best avoided, especially in the second and third trimesters as your belly grows.

But gentle crunches on an incline with limited range of motion, keeping knees bent, and good breathing technique can be safely integrated into your routine a few days a week.

Pay close attention to alignment and form to prevent coning or doming of the abdomen. And stop immediately if you ever feel pain, instability or too much intensity.

A strong core provides enormous benefits like back pain relief during pregnancy. But strength training needs to be well-rounded, working the entire abdominal wall and beyond just the 6-pack muscles.

Discuss your exercise routine with your OB-GYN and always put your body’s signals first. With some simple adjustments, sit ups can be modified to safely include for expecting moms.