For anyone thinking that you can’t start an exercise program during pregnancy, whether it is cardio or strength training, if you have not exercised before…. this is no longer true. It was believed that if you were not currently training before pregnancy, it was unwise and unsafe to do so. Similarly, if you were exercising it was said that you shouldn’t change or do anything different from before! This is no longer true! Unless you have a high-risk pregnancy and have serious implications or contra-indications as to why you can’t exercise, there is absolutely no reason for you to not get fit and strength train.
The first trimester can sometimes be the hardest for some women, with fatigue and morning sickness! It can be a battle to motivate or start a program, especially if you are not sure where to start or what is safe/unsafe to do during pregnancy.
Here’s the thing, it is safe to most exercises, you know your own body. If something doesn’t feel right you stop and try to find an alternative exercise.
There are exercises that will help strengthen your core and pelvic floor. It is really important to work on these forgotten or unknown muscles during pregnancy to prepare for birth. Along with this is getting your breathing correct. Diaphragmic breathing is something we discussed previously. It will help you control the level of intra-abdominal pressure whilst lifting anything heavy, i.e a weight or a small child! So learning to breathe properly when starting weight training is very important.
There is no reason to not continue your existing program. But as each trimester progresses, you may need to regress the exercise either the weight or the sets and reps.
If you suffer from low back pain or Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) keeping your legs closer together whilst performing certain exercises i.e. squats as this will help.
You are going into pregnancy, your body will change, your centre of gravity will change. So as you progress through to the second and third trimester try not to perform any movement that may cause you to lose balance. If you want to carry on with the exercise maybe use a wall or a chair to help.
Laying on your back after the 1st trimester may cause you to feel lightheaded and dizzy. So try to do exercises on an incline rather than flat. Getting up and down from a seated position, try to do this steady and slow to stop you feeling faint when you get to standing.
Don’t do anything that is going to cause you to hold your breath or get too out of breath. You should be able to hold a conversation! Don’t strain, ensure your technique and form are really good, use a mirror to monitor this. Also, don’t get overheated or push yourself too hard. Now is not a time to improve strength or cardio fitness but it’s more for maintenance. Stay well hydrated!
If you are unsure if you should be doing a particular exercise, ask a Pre/Post Natal PT or a Women’s Health Physio may be able to offer guidance on this.
If you notice any doming whilst performing strength training or any other exercises – stop the exercise. Regress it or do something else. Doming is because of the intra-abdominal pressure and your weakening Linea Alba, your abdominals are stretching to accommodate the baby and the exercise is too much at this point, and you don’t want to make it worse buy performing exercises whereby you are unable to control abdominal pressure and properly engage your core.
If you feel any discomfort, pain, bleeding, or anything irregular – stop immediately and seek advice from your GP.
If you are fit and well with no health issues there really is nothing stopping you from exercising. Strength training has so many benefits. It will help your mental health, get your strong and prepared for birth, better blood circulation, you will feel better, it can help with constipation, energy levels, better sleep, lower incidences of backache, and enhanced postnatal recovery. It can also sometimes help with reducing your labour time.
What’s not to love?!
Just make sure you get proper advice on what to do, how to perform exercises safely with correct form, and get clearance from your GP before embarking on anything different if you have any health-related issues during pregnancy or prior to pregnancy.