Pregnancy is such an exciting time for new moms-to-be! As your body goes through endless changes throughout the 9 months of pregnancy and into the postpartum stage, it can also be a very confusing time for many women. One major area of confusion is exercising throughout pregnancy. Whether you have an established fitness routine or you are looking for guidance to begin one, exercise during pregnancy is important and safe for most women with uncomplicated pregnancies. Always discuss with your OB/GYN before beginning a fitness routine to ensure there are no contraindications.
Exercise during pregnancy is focused on maintaining health and reaping the benefits exercise can have for you and your baby. This is not a time for weight loss or personal bests.
Benefits of exercise for mom and baby include:
Maintaining a healthy weight throughout pregnancy and overall physical fitness level
Decreased aches and pains, especially low back pain when core exercises are included
Decreased risk of Gestational Diabetes and Caesarian deliveries
Increased stamina for labor and delivery
Decreased recovery time during Postpartum period
If you were sedentary before, start slowly, beginning with 15-20 minutes of daily physical activity (walking or jogging), with a goal of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week including 2-3 days of strength training. Always make sure you stay well hydrated throughout the day, wear loose exercise clothing, and avoid exercising in high heat or humidity. It’s especially important now to listen to your body, and rest when needed. You should be slightly out of breath, but should ALWAYS be able to talk while exercising.
The first trimester can be one of the most difficult times to find motivation to stay active. Many moms experience nausea and fatigue throughout this time period. Start with walking or jogging as your body will tolerate it and eat small meals throughout the day. Focus on building the deep muscles of the core by performing Deep Belly Breathing. Lay on your left side with your hand on your belly button. Gently take a deep breath in, allowing your belly to expand, followed by a gentle exhale drawing your belly button into your spine. Continue breathing deeply, but gently enough that you do not feel light headed. Glute bridges, squats, and planks are all exercises that will help build a strong support system for the lower back and better posture throughout pregnancy.
During the second trimester, many moms experience an increase in energy as their nausea and fatigue begins to diminish. Avoid exercises that require lying on your back for prolonged periods and modify strength exercises from a standing to seated position as needed. As ligaments loosen to prepare the pelvis for pregnancy and birth, many moms may experience pain in their glutes and legs, especially when lifting one leg at a time. Single leg exercises may need to be avoided. Exercises can be done in a seated or kneeling position to reduce pain. Gliders and stability balls can also be used to decrease pain.
The third trimester often requires many modifications as your center of gravity shifts and balance changes. Stability balls are a great tool to perform exercises safely and comfortably throughout this time period. Strength exercises previously done from a standing position can be done while seated on a stability ball. Challenge your balance and core strength with the bird dog exercise. On hands and knees with a neutral spine, extend your right arm and left leg while continuing to breath. Hold for 10 seconds and return to the center, and switch sides. Complete 3 sets on each side.
Throughout all three trimesters, focus on engaging the core with each exercise and performing Deep Belly Breathing. Stay hydrated throughout the day, and make sure to drink water at least every 15-20 minutes throughout your workout. Always listen to your body, modify or skip exercises that cause pain as your body changes, and rest when needed. Remember, you always know what’s best for you and your baby, and have the power to be a strong, fit mom!
Kristen Szewczyk, RN, CPT is a Registered Nurse and Certified Personal and Perinatal Fitness Trainer in Nashville, Tennessee. Kristen works with Strength in Moms to provide personal training to pregnant and postpartum women in Nashville, TN and Atlanta, GA. For more information on exercise during pregnancy or to set up an individual session with Kristen, please visit http://www.strengthinmoms.com or email Kristen@StrengthinMoms.com.