by Maureen Pray, NCCPT Certified Personal Trainer
Exercising and staying active while pregnant is one of the best things you can do for you and your baby during your pregnancy. If you have a normal, healthy pregnancy and have been cleared by your health care professional, it is recommended that pregnant women get 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 times a week. Working out during pregnancy has many health benefits including reduced risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and hypertension disorders. Staying active can also reduce pregnancy discomfort, prepare your body for delivery, and help with postpartum recovery.Many pregnant women have concerns though about what is safe and healthy, in terms of exercise, for them and their baby. Here are some general guidelines to help you and baby stay active and safe.
- Do talk to your healthcare professional before starting or continuing any exercise program and regularly discuss being active in your prenatal appointments. Your body is constantly changing during pregnancy and you may find that you need to change your workout habits as you move along in your pregnancy.
- Do workouts that are safe and healthy for pregnant women. These include walking, running (if you were a runner prior to becoming pregnant and cleared by your doctor), yoga, spin class, weight training, and swimming. With modifications, all of these workouts can be appropriate for pregnant women.
- Do wear loose fitting clothing that is comfortable and shoes that fit well and are meant for the type of exercise you are doing.
- Do drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout. Pregnant women need at least 96 oz (12 glasses) of water a day. If you are exercising, then it is recommended you drink an extra 8 oz for moderate exercise. Increase this even more in hot or humid weather.
- Do continue core exercises! Many women think they can no longer do core movement while pregnant, but exercising your core during pregnancy can help with post-partum recovery. You will need to make modifications to core exercises at the end of the first trimester, but abdominal work can still be done during pregnancy!
- Do listen to your body! You know your body better than anyone else and there may be days where going to your bootcamp class doesn’t feel right and that is ok! Every pregnancy and person are different and you know when your body needs rest and recovery.
- Do not participate in workouts where falling is likely possible (i.e. outdoor road cycling), or activities with rapid directional changes (i.e. tennis) or any contact sports. While your baby is in a safe environment in the uterus, any outside trauma is not worth the risk.
- Do not bounce while stretching or overstretch ligaments. Relaxin is a hormone produced to help prepare the uterus at the beginning of pregnancy and toward the end of pregnancy to relax ligaments around pelvis. Because of this, pregnancy women are more susceptible to over stretching or causing injury while stretching.
- Do not hold your breath or exercise to the point of exhaustion. For decades, pregnant women were told to not let their heart rate get above 150 bpm. In more recent years, physicians have agreed that heart rates differ from person to person and a better rule of thumb is the conversation rule. During a workout, a pregnant woman should be able to hold a conversation easily and without difficulty catching her breath. If you are struggling to hold a conversation, turn down the intensity of that exercise or movement until you can easily talk while doing so.
- Do not lay flat on your back during the 2nd and 3rd trimester during exercise. There are many tools and modifications such as laying at an incline, doing the same exercise standing, etc., that a personal trainer or instructor can show you.
- Do not exercise for weight loss during pregnancy. Working out during pregnancy is not the time to set weight loss goals, but working out and staying active can help you achieve weight loss goals after delivery. Staying active during pregnancy is a way for you to relieve discomfort, manage stress and emotions, and maintain a healthy pregnancy for you and baby.
After delivery and during the postpartum phase, getting back into an exercise routine can be challenging and a good form of self-care for Moms. There are many physiological changes going on in a postpartum body as well as emotional and psychological considerations as well. It is important to not rush right back into exercise and recognize that everyone’s pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum recovery is unique.
- Do attend your follow-up post-delivery checkup with your provider before starting any type of exercise other than walking. The majority of women are cleared to exercise six weeks after delivery, but making sure you are healing properly is critical before starting to exercise again.
- Do be patient with yourself when starting to exercise again after delivery! Just because you are cleared at six weeks to workout does not mean you are completely healed from pregnancy and delivery or that you are feeling ready to exercise again. It can take six months to a year for a full recovery from pregnancy and childbirth.
- Do seek professional help and talk to supportive family and friends if you are showing symptoms of Postpartum Depression. Approximately 19% of new mothers develop a postpartum mood disorder which is more serious than having the baby blues, which typically go away about two weeks after delivery.
- Do not feel pressured to get your body “back to normal” very quickly after delivery. Western culture holds this unrealistic expectation that post-partum women should have it all together, including their figures, while also being sleep deprived, working, and taking care of a newborn.
- Do not try to lose the “baby weight” by lacking in nutrition your body needs. Food is the building block to repairing muscles and tissues damaged during delivery. If you are breastfeeding, you will need whole food nutrition to make enough breastmilk for baby and not deplete your own energy storage of nutrients.
- Do not brush off pain when getting back into an exercise routine. You know your body better than anyone and if something doesn’t feel right while exercising in your postpartum body, seek out a personal trainer or a physical therapist that specializes in postpartum fitness.
For more information on staying active during pregnancy, visit americanpregnancy.org or speak to a certified personal trainer that specializes in prenatal fitness and exercise.