Our bodies are made for pregnancies. If you are healthy and having an uncomplicated pregnancy, exercise is the best thing you can do.
With consistent exercise of what your body was accustomed to before becoming pregnant, you will continue to gain more strength and energy needed as you and your baby grow to help with the added pressure on your joints.
According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), which recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity, it says there are many health benefits:
• Reduces back pain
• Eases constipation
• May decrease your risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and cesarean delivery
• Promotes healthy weight gain during pregnancy
• Improves your overall general fitness and strengthens your heart and blood vessels
• Helps you to lose the baby weight after your baby is born
Let’s cover some of the common misconceptions and concerns regarding training while pregnant.
•The first question I always get regarding training while pregnant is, are there any exercises that we should avoid?
The obvious exercises to avoid completely are the ones that put you or your baby at risk for injury. These include contact sports, or any activity with the likelihood of falling. Also discontinuing any high impact exercises when you are well into your second trimester and into the third.
It is recommended that heading into your second trimester, you should avoid exercises on your back for prolonged periods of time, and new studies have shown short periods are fine. If you feel lightheaded or have trouble breathing, eliminate all exercises on your back.
Instead of exercises lying directly on your back. You can use pillows to prop yourself up a little placing your heart above your naval.
What about abdominal exercises?
A strong core and abdominals are important as they help to reduce lower back pain, the larger you stomach grows.
However, think of training your abdominals in a totally different way then you are used to. Not the typical….I’m trying to achieve that rock hard 6 pack..but rather train to improve your core strength and pelvic floor health. Substituting crunch’s and sit ups for pelvic floor tilts and bridges.
Pelvic floor exercises are extremely important as pregnancy and childbirth puts a strain on the pelvic floor muscles. They should be a part of your daily routine to help build and maintain pelvic strength and health.
•I don’t think there is a magical pregnancy training program. My best advice is to continue what your body was accustomed to before you became pregnant but adjusting the intensity as you progress and NEVER pushing your body to the point of failure with any exercise. You will notice that the further along during your pregnancy, some exercises will no longer feel good. Don’t do them. Pregnancy is not a time for your ego to take over.
There are always ways to adjust movements to assist with our growing bellies. Listen to your body and remember pregnancy is never a time to push it until failure. If a movement doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Simple as that.
Very importantly, never hold your breathe during a movement. You want a constant flow of oxygen for you and your baby.
•Another question: “I’m just too tired to exercise. Should I force myself?”
No and yes. I will explain. There are many benefits to exercise during this significant period of time.
Exercise helps with fatigue, lowers our chances of developing diabetes or high blood pressure and helps to keep us in the healthy range of pregnancy weight gain. By keeping weight gain under control, postpartum weight loss will be a much easier process.
However, pregnancy fatigue is real. Especially during the first trimester and last few weeks.
So on those days of extreme fatigue, skip your normal routine but still find a way to move your body. Maybe try walking, taking a prenatal yoga class or swimming.
If you have taken some time off from exercising but want to start back for your health and the health of your baby, you should make the transition a slow one and not over exert yourself. Also it’s best to get cleared by your midwife or physician before starting any new program.
•Another question I received was, is prenatal the only type of yoga I can take?
No. Not if you are used to taking Yoga classes. There are other classes such as gentle yoga or simply making small adjustments to your current yoga class. I would avoid long durations on your back, any new positions your body isn’t accustomed too or extension positions where you are curving your spine backward.
I personally love Yoga. Yoga has many benefits starting with the focus on breathing and relaxation. Deep breathing allows the nervous system to go into parasympathetic mode, the relaxation mode. It’s also GREAT practice for getting into that relaxation state of mind and helps to prepare for labor.
By slowing down and focusing on our breathing, we can have a better connection with our body and babies.
•What are the warning signs that tell me to stop exercising?
• Faintness and dizziness before and during exercise
• Increase in vaginal discharge
• Vaginal bleeding
• Painful contractions
• Sudden chest pains or extreme headache
• Any movements that are painful
By listening to your body, proper execution of exercises and staying well hydrated and rested, adding activity to your current schedule is an excellent way to take charge of your and your babies health.
When we take care of ourselves during pregnancy, with proper nutrition and training, we are also gaining control over our minds. We are gaining strength AND confidence to help prepare for one of the most physical events of our lives…Birth.