EXERCISING WHILE PREGNANT: WHAT TO MODIFY AND WHAT TO AVOID
Although I cannot speak from personal experience since I have not been pregnant myself, as a lifelong athlete and Certified Personal Trainer I believe that being pregnant and giving birth, whether it be vaginal or c-section, is the greatest athletic event in the world. It is incredible what women's bodies can do! However, you still need to take care of your body and devote time to prepare it for the main event, just like you would for a marathon. Maintaining a moderate-intensity level of exercise during your pregnancy can result in better energy levels, reduced lower back pain, ensure a stronger recovery post delivery, as well as reduce the risk of pregnancy-related illnesses such as depression, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and preeclampsia.
I have been training prenatal and postnatal clients for three years now, and many first-time moms are unsure and therefore have questions about what type of exercises they can/should do during their pregnancy. During pregnancy your fitness goal is to maintain a moderate level of physical activity, with a focus on strength and stability. Sorry, no sprint PRs! If you have not worked out consistently before being pregnant, you still should slowly start a prenatal fitness program. If you have been very active before becoming pregnant, then keep doing what you are doing. Your body will tell you when you need to modify.
HERE ARE SOME COMMON EXERCISE SITUATIONS TO MODIFY WHILE PREGNANT
*Please keep in mind that every woman's body and pregnancy experience is different. Please consult your physician first, before undertaking any new program.
EXPLOSIVE DIRECTIONAL MOVEMENTS: When you are pregnant, your body produces a hormone called relaxin. The role of relaxin is to relax the ligaments in your pelvis and soften your cervix in preparation for delivery. Since it cannot distinguish your ankle ligaments from the ones in your pelvis, all your joints become "relaxed" and could become a bit more unstable. Therefore it is recommended that you avoid activities where you need to change directions quickly (ie soccer, basketball, agility work, jumping) and add workouts or specific exercises that work stability like standing on one leg, movements on the bosu, etc.
LAYING FLAT ON YOUR BACK FOR LONGER PERIODS: Once you hit the 20-week mark, you shouldn't lay flat on your back for long periods of time. The reasoning behind this is that the weight of the baby on your inferior vena cava (the main blood vessel that brings blood back to your heart from your lower body) affects blood flow to you and the baby. If you stay on your back for too long, you might feel light-headed, nauseated, or dizzy. Not all women experience this though, so if you are on your back for 30 seconds or a minute, you most likely will feel fine. That being said, every woman's pregnancy experience is different. A simple alternative is to use an incline bench or fit deck, or modify core exercises into bird dogs or standing sequences. See my video below for an example.
AVOIDANCE OF DIASTASIS RECTI: One main concern I focus on a lot, is the severity of an abdominal separation that you get since it affects your core strength. Your linea alba is the connective tissue on your abdominals. As your baby grows, this connective tissue stretches or what more commonly is said: "separates." During some exercises you may notice a ridge that forms on your abs, that is your linea alba, and that ridge is something you want to avoid happening when you workout since we want to minimize the stretching that occurs. When getting up out of floor exercises or even getting out of bed, instead of sitting straight up, you want to roll to one side then push yourself up using your arms.
As your pregnancy progresses, there will be some exercises that you won't be able to do because they do not feel right to do or you cannot get into the position once your baby bump has grown. Below are some modified exercises that you should add into your workouts or swap them in during any group fitness classes you attend.
Core Strength: Maintaining core strength during pregnancy is important. Well…actually it is important for everyone all the time! As the baby grows, there is a horizontal force on your abdominals, which can increase lower back pain and affect your core strength. Here are some safe exercises you can do.
Upper Body Strength: Getting up from lying down either on the floor or a bench can become challenging or uncomfortable as your pregnancy progresses, and is not ideal for your linea alba. So instead of laying flat for your chest press or flyes, use a resistance band or cable machine or adjust the back on your bench to a 45-90 degree angle. Check out the video below.
Lower Body: When it comes to lower body exercises, there isn't too much you need to avoid, other than jumping and activities that require you to change directions quickly. Some women experience discomfort in the pelvis or lower back area when squatting or lunging. If you do, go see a Physiotherapist or Personal Trainer or both!
Since every woman's body is unique, her pregnancy experience will be different as well. That is why it is essential to listen to your body and work with an experienced trainer that will safely guide you through your prenatal adventure. If you have any questions feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.