*Thank you to Tina Plemmons for this guest post!
**Disclaimer: This is not intended to be medical advice. Always consult your doctor with any medical questions.
Congratulations – you’re growing a tiny human! Whether this is your first or your fifth baby, chances are you’re not going to quit moving your body until you deliver. Daily movement and exercise has been shown to be so beneficial to both mom and baby’s health, but how do you know what to do? Every pregnant women’s journey is different but I wanted to highlight some important considerations during this special time!
Exercising during pregnancy
Get your mind right
First, it’s worth discussing your mindset in your approach to fitness as a pregnant athlete. To figure out where to go from here, you have to assess what your activity looked like before you got pregnant. Pregnancy is not the best time to start any new or complex fitness routines. Your life and body will likely look different from before you have your baby, both mentally, emotionally, and physically. And let’s be clear, there is no ‘getting your body back’ after a baby. You never lost it. Actually, you have now gained a stronger, more adaptable, and able body.
I encourage you to ask yourself what are you are training for and what are your goals? How about two years post-baby, five years, ten years? Then consider: “Just because I can do this exercise, should I? Does it serve me in my goals?” This will look different for every woman, every pregnancy, and may change over the course of your pregnancy, too!
Understanding your body
It’s helpful to understand a little more about your body and changes that you may experience. Your doctor is ALWAYS your #1 resource for symptoms and questions related to your pregnancy and recovery. Pelvic Floor Physical Therapists are also important members of the healthcare team that can help you navigate changes during this time. Your pelvic floor is an important component of your core that is the muscular foundation of the pelvis that supports the uterus, bladder, and bowels.
What do the experts say?
There are no exercises specifically to “train for birth”. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) are the experts in the medical field that created opinion recommendations for physical activity in the pregnancy that you can view in more detail.
What movement should I do or not do?
The answer really depends on your goals, symptoms, and history. This is unique to every single woman and pregnancy which is why it is critical to have the guidance of a coach trained to help you in this stage. ACOG recommends discontinuing exercise if any of the following occur: vaginal bleeding, abdominal pain, regular painful contractions, amniotic fluid leakage, shortness of breath before exertion, dizziness, headache, chest pain, muscle weakness affecting balance, calf pain, or swelling.
Considerations for each trimester
Movements also vary by focus in each trimester, as well as how you are feeling. The first trimester is typically filled with nausea and fatigue, so focus on understanding your body awareness, adapting your mindset, and ensuring you get enough sleep and adequate nutrition. The second-trimester ‘honeymoon’ phase may allow for some more structured exercising based on your energy, but consider scaling back any complex movements. Ab-specific work that stresses your linea alba (where you traditionally think of as your abs) should probably be discontinued in the second trimester as your abs start to separate to allow for the growth of the baby. Even the simple act of getting out of bed can stress this part of your body, so I recommend rolling to your side to get up.
The third trimester usually brings a whole host of rapid body changes, so will likely require changes in your breathing technique and exercises to allow for a growing bump! Focus on stretching and lengthening closer to your delivery date, while being careful not to over stretch your body with the higher amounts of relaxin in your system.
No ‘one size fits all’
There are no exact guidelines for what exercises you should or should not do during pregnancy. What you do depends on your goals, but there should also be a focus on awareness – what causes you symptoms, what has a potential risk that would outweigh the potential reward, and your specific mental, physical and fitness history. The good news is that fitness is infinitely scalable and can be modified to fit your intended intensity for that specific day or moment in your life. Your target intensity will change throughout all the trimesters of your pregnancy, including the fourth trimester. Take advantage of the temporary transition state when you are pregnant to understand and adapt your body while spending time being closest with your baby!
About the Author
Tina is a new first-time mom to her son, Reid. She is a full-time pharmacist and also coaches at Locomotion Fitness in Park Circle. Her passions include the prevention of chronic disease, weightlifting, and training pregnant and postpartum women. She holds several fitness certificates: Crossfit Level 1, USA Weightlifting Level 1, and Pregnancy & Postpartum Athleticism. She is originally from Punxsutawney, PA, and relocated to Charleston in 2014. She and her husband Andrew call Hanahan home, along with their two bulldogs and new son.