The Most Critical Do’s and Don’ts of Working Out While Pregnant
Are you scared of working out whilst pregnant? Or simply not sure how to proceed? Everything seems slightly more daunting once you’re carrying and creating a whole other person.
In this article I will give you specific advice, tips and strategies for working out while pregnant. Ensuring that you, and your baby, are safe. Not only that but you will both benefit.
Benefits of Working Out While Pregnant
It is clear that everyone, not just you but your baby, and probably your partner and other kids will benefit from you working out while pregnant. If you’re sleeping better and feel less stress, you can guarantee everyone in the household is going to feel better.
How you benefit from working out while pregnant:
- Reduced incidence of lower back pain
- 30% reduction in the risk of gestational diabetes
- Reduced likelihood of unplanned cesarian
- Lower incidence and reduce severity of depression
- Less pregnancy weight gain
- Lower risk of urinary incontiennce
- Reduced pregnancy constipation
- Less pregnancy tiredness
- May have a shorter labour
How your baby benefits from working out while pregnant:
- A healthier heart
- Normal birth weight
- Quicker neurological development
- Reduced risk of respiratory distress syndrome (for infants of high-risk women)
- Less maternal stress could reduce impact on immune system development
Instant Big-Rocks for Working out While Pregnant
Before we get cracking into what really will benefit, here are some instant ‘big-rocks’ when it comes to working out while pregnant.
Safety first: Check with your midwife
Each person and pregnancy is individual – and as I”m not speaking to you in person, the first pre-qualifier is that you check with your doctor that you’re ok to work out while pregnant. In certain circumstances, it is not recommended due to potential complications arising from exercise.
If you’re new to exercising or have just fallen pregnant do check with your GP or midwife before commencing or recommencing your exercise program.
Exercise Check In Second – No lying Flat or Crunches
Crunches are a whole other issue in regards to pre and post natal training that I’ll get into during another article.
For now, know that lying flat on your back puts pressure on your body, especially after 16 weeks. The weight of your bump pressing on certain blood vessels can reduce cardiac output, make you feel dizzy and affect the flow of blood that carries nutrients and oxygen to your baby.
While this means traditional stomach crunches are out, you can and should still include core and pelvic floor strengthening exercises in your routine. These I’ll get to later in the article.
Third Intensity Check In – No High Intensity Workouts
When it comes to exercise intensity, it is best to abide by the guideline “to be able to comfortably hold a conversation” whilst working out. Unless you are an athlete and extremely used to very high heart rates whilst you workout, keeping your rate of perceived exertion to a 7 out of 10 is best practice.
Experts agree that you should avoid undertaking activities that will raise your core temperature by more than 2°C – or above 38.9°C. This is because such a temperature change may result in hyperthermia (the opposite of hypothermia). Hyperthermia during pregnancy has been linked to a twofold increase in the risk of birth defects impacting the spine or brain.
As such, it is not advisable to use hot tubs or spas during pregnancy, and hot yoga should be avoided as well as parking in only moderate intensity exercise.
Final & Fourth Point – No high contact/dangerous sports
For obvious reasons, contact sports or sports in which it’s likely you can fall or have an accident should be avoided.
For example scuba diving while pregnant should be avoided as your baby will have no protection against decompression sickness (‘the bends’) or gas embolism – bubbles in the bloodstream that can cut off blood supply or cause breathing difficulties.
Similarly, horse riding, climbing, cycling, gymnastics and other activities that require extreme balance are best avoided as your centre of gravity shifts and affects your balance.
Certainly, sports like kick boxing, jujitsu or rugby in which contact is prevalent should be avoided for bump protection.
Actual Workouts You Can Do While Pregnant
1. Let your personal trainer or group exercise instructor know that you’re pregnant
In doing so they can assist you in providing expert advice or refer you to a qualified practitioner in your area. If you’re unsure ask your GP or Midwife for a referral.
2. Use your breath to engage your core and pelvic floorthroughout your workout programs
Your breath plays a big part in controlled core to assist with labour and reduce back pain. We each take thousands of breaths per day, as as your baby grows pressure is placed upon the lungs and pelvic floor.
Preparing and practicing proper breath ensures that your core remains as integrated and activated as possible throughout and after your pregnancy.
3. Find a Holistic Core Restore Coach
The reason the Holistic Core Restore® programmes are more effective than performing keels or traditional abdominal exercise alone for true core restore and pelvic floor activation. A Hollisitc Core Restore Coach will work with you to integrate your core and pelvic floor with your whole body through a series of movements and lifestyle factors.
4. Join a Pre & Post Natal Class
Join a Pre & Post Natal Class in order to move in specific ways designed to boost your health and recovery post birth.
This not only provides you with a chance to connect with other pre & post natal women in your area to and create a community; but also provides you access to pre & post natal experts who can give you tailored advice for exercising whilst pregnant.
5. Focus on strengthening the glute muscles
Focus on strengthening the glute muscles to counteract the anterior tilt produced by your expanding bump.
Most people will simply focus on keeping the core engaged and active to help the ‘pre-mummy-tummy’ bounce back. When in actual fact the synergist muscle to the core for pelvic stability is the butt.
Really focus on strengthening the glute muscles in order to support the core, posture and back.
Hinge movements such as single leg romanian deadlifts are a brilliant way to do so. You can do this holding a Kettlebell or Dumbell but also, once the bump is big enough just using your bodyweight.
6. Enjoy swimming
Enjoy swimming, especially in your third trimester, to remove weight and boost lymphatic drainage of your feet and ankles.
It’s well known that your ankles swell during the last months of pregnancy. This is due to the changes in posture from the weight of the stomach pulling down towards the floor.
Consequently, this causes the front of the hip to become compressed. And this in turn reduces circulation of the lymphatic fluid in the lower body.
One way to improve this circulation is to get into water as the pressure from the water removes the weight of the bump whilst providing pressure to the legs improving circulation.
7. Bring layers to your workouts
Bring layers to your workouts so that you can add and remove layers as you warm up and cool down.
As previously mentioned, changes in body temperature can be dangerous for the baby – using layers so that you can keep your temperature constant is one the the most simple and best things you can do whilst working out while pregnant.
8. Practice the 7 fundamental primal movement patterns in your workouts
Practice the 7 fundamental primal movement patterns in your workouts – squat, lunge, anti-rotate, push, carry, hinge, pull.
“We love pregnant mamas to be regularly training their squats, since a low squat is the ideal position for working through contractions and pushing during labor.”
They also improve pelvic floor strength and elasticity to help prevent tearing during the natural labor process and teach abdominal strength relative to hip mobility for an easier labor and faster postnatal recovery.
Kiberd and her team prefer front squats done with at least a 12-kilogram kettlebell held at the chest. (Choose an appropriate weight for your level.)
“The kettlebell gives great feedback to the muscles that need to engage to stand you back up and to stabilize your weight while you’re down in the squat,” she explains.
And once the bump gets big? “No weight on the front is needed,” she says. “The belly is that natural weight.”
9. Do exercise that your enjoy
Because really if you’re enjoying it so will bump and you’ll feel less stressed.
Do not making working out while pregnant a chore – if it becomes that way, seek advice from an expert in your gym or area on some new varied things that you can try.
10. Practice anti-rotation exercises
Practice anti-rotation exercises whilst focussing on the breath for core integration and activation.
The Palloff press (a core stabilizer done on a cable machine) and the bear crawls offer the same degree of effectiveness.
“These two exercises engage the external and internal obliques, which are involved in stabilizing the torso in rotation and help stabilize the shoulders down and back.”
11. Make sure to wind down properly
Cooling down slowly after your workouts and providing a little leeway time before your next appointment will reduce your stress levels and help you feel more balanced.
It will also stop sharp changes in body temperature that are non-beneficial to your baby.
Take your time and enjoy each session for what it is.
The Bottom Line
You will have to make fitness modifications as your body changes, but deep down, you know that’s ok. Dr Dawn Harper says
“We’re now seeing evidence that exercising in pregnancy may be one of the best things you can do for your baby’s future health. Pregnancy exercise can have a huge impact on your personal experience of pregnancy, too. Provided you follow the expert guidelines, it’s safe for most women to continue and even start exercising in pregnancy. Just make sure you check with your midwife or doctor first, in case there are any specific medical reasons why you should avoid being physically active in pregnancy.”
There are certain things that are essential. The first being to check with your Dr/Midwife to be given the ‘OK’ to exercise.
There are definite ‘no-nos’ such as abstaining from contact or dangerous sports as well as performing extreme high intensity workouts that bring your heart rate and temperature very, abnormally high for you. It is also contraindicated that you perform any exercises lying on your back.
The exciting thing is that you can and should exercise. You simply have to adapt to what is possible by seeking advice of a local pre & post natal expert. If you take one sentence away let it be this:
Focus upon your breath, workout at a 7/10 level, strengthen your glutes and perform whole body integrated exercises preferentially led by a pre & post natal expert.
And finally, if in doubt, get in the pool for some weight off your feet and relax!