A couple weeks ago, I talked about how I became certified in Perinatal Fitness, through the online AFAA workshop. Perinatal encompasses prenatal, birth, and postpartum. I loved hearing all the information out there, and want to pass on some tips for working out while pregnant for those of you who are pregnant or thinking of being pregnant!
Tips for Working Out While Pregnant
Before beginning, I have to say you must listen to your body! You are the only one who knows how you feel, so pay attention to that. Also, while this information is from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, always check with your doctor.
**Also please remember this is coming from an instructor point of view.
I thought it’d be easiest just to use bullet points for the information! Here are my top tips for working out while pregnant:
There are many benefits to working out while pregnant:
- more energy during pregnancy
- more restful sleep (lots of pregnant ladies have trouble sleeping)
- strong muscles are needed after pregnancy, so it’s best to sustain them during pregnancy
- Improved balance and coordination- needed as your baby bump might throw you off balance
- Fit women have an advantage during labor and delivery– labor and delivery is the single most exhaustive experience during a woman’s life (unless you are an elite athlete!)
- Typically have a quicker recovery– easier to cope with increased energy demands of newborn and less depression
Keep in mind, there are some reasons you need to check with your Dr. before continuing an exercise program:
- Extreme obesity or underweight
- History of sedentary lifestyle
- Significant Heart Disease putting you and the baby at risk
- Persistent second or third trimester bleeding
- Premature labor during pregnancy
- Placenta previa after 26 weeks gestation
- Pregnancy induced hypertension (high blood pressure)
Things to keep in mind while pregnant:
- Your cartilage and ligaments soften and relax, meaning you could injure yourself if you stretch too far- keep that in mind during yoga, especially.
- Avoid deep flexion of the knees as it places more pressure on the relaxed knee ligaments
- Your abs can actually split. Being able to fit 1/2 to 1 finger is normal, but if you can fit more than 2 finger widths, you should avoid oblique work, and avoid curl ups if it’s more than 3 finger widths. Interesting fact, it can take 6-12 months for abs to come back!
- If you do experience abdominal separation after pregnancy, you can use a splint to continue ab exericses by placing a towel around your back and sides and hold it together
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends no exercise on back after 20 weeks. This is because it is more difficult for the blood to circulate. However, you will feel it yourself first and know you need to roll over before you do any harm to the baby! In this case, you should roll onto your side.
- Your pelvic floor muscles can lead to a multiple of problems if weak. You should perform 100 kegal exercises a day to increase that stamina- it will help during delivery!
- The HR theory isn’t used anymore for how hard you are working. Instead, you should track your perceived exertion (though you should not be above your maximum heart rate for a sustained period of time, either!)
- Exercise is prohibited when ways to dissipate heat are compromised such as when you have a fever or are in hot and humid environments. This is also why you need to avoid hot tubs and saunas
- Eat before working out– makes sure you have something in you and that you won’t get too weak during exercise
- Walking is a fantastic exercise to do throughout pregnancy.
- A great rule for high intensity exercises is that if you’ve been doing it for 8-12 weeks prior to getting pregnant, you can continue. This includes running.
- Water exercise is a great alternative, too!
Some exercise modifications:
- While standing, continue to march in place to increase circulation
- Create an incline on a ball or bench to perform a chest press, chest fly.
- Make sure feet are in a stable position if on the stability ball
- With lateral raises, bend at the elbow if you need to
- Avoid bent over standing positions
- Lie on your side and rotate your arm for shoulder cuff rotations.
- Lying on your side is a great alternative to your back. You can continue side crunches this way, too.
- With lunges, make sure you can balance- widen your stance if you need to. Keep to one side at a time- not alternating (it places too much pressure on your body to continue to switch legs)
- Use a bar or balance on something as you perform squats and lunges. These can be difficult to maintain balance during as you have a big belly throwing off your balance.
- High/Low impact exercises may be appropriate to continue during pregnancy is the exerciser has participated in these for at least 6 months prior to pregnancy
- Work your abs on a stability ball at an incline position (focus on keeping your heart above your uterus)
- Avoid twisting and turning and oblique work if your abs detach
- You can stand and perform crunches, pelvic tilts, and side to side crunches (not lifting legs)
- Breathing is key, so keep breathing!
- Some women develop carpel tunnel syndrome during pregnancy- so some moves may hurt such as push up and plank position. You can go onto knuckles to help, tent your fingers, relax on forearms, or wrap hands around dumbbells
- If you experience round ligament pain while standing and working out, you should sit, but you can still continue your exercise
Keep in mind during PostPartum recovery:
- You should wait for exercise clearance after delivering before returning to exercise program
- You may still have postural problems as abs are working to come back
- The uterus is still enlarged until about 6 weeks postpartum
- Cardio changes may persist 4-6 weeks postpartum or longer, so continue maintenance program during this time period
- Pelvic floor exercises should begin very soon after delivery (aka kegals)
- Exercise may be hard to fit in with a baby, so focus on getting up and moving as much as possible!
Whew, so sorry it was so long! Hope you learned something new! This is no where near all the information I learned, so if you have a question, ask below! I’d be happy to answer from my background (which remember, is not a doctor background!!).
If you’ve been pregnant, did you work out while pregnant?
What’s the hardest part about getting your workout in daily?
Are you a gum chewer or mint eater? Or neither? haha