With social media documenting perfect pregnancies at every stage, there is a new level of criticism and opinion surrounding exercise during pregnancy. This leaves many active women whether in the public spot light or just regulars to their local Crossfit box, open to misguided criticism.
The body needs to move, we were born to move and when growing another human the female body must stay true to this, after all motherhood is one of the toughest endurance sports out there. Today there is a wealth of research that supports a consistent fitness program throughout pregnancy, as being healthy and strong is critical for mother and baby both pre and post partum.
What’s the right amount of exercise?
Everyone is different, every pregnancy is different and so each individual will need a fitness program tailored to their needs. If you have been a fit and active person before becoming pregnant, then it is important to continue along similar lines and with a routine that is familiar, similarly if you weren’t very active before becoming pregnant, now is not the time to take up new sports or exercises.
How can exercise help your pregnancy?
What’s important is that any fitness regime should change throughout pregnancy as the body does and the body should always be listened to. When performed correctly, exercise during pregnancy can offer a huge number of positive effects, ranging from boosting mood and energy levels, reducing the risk of constipation, mitigating lower back pain, and even helping reduce the risk of pre/post natal depression.
Having just celebrated my daughter's first birthday, I can’t believe it is a year since I was coaching my partner and our bump in the gym and walking for miles to encourage her contractions to start. As an Osteopath I had the theory and the practical application, but it was a great eye opener to be on the sidelines with helping to facilitate a healthy happy pregnancy for our own bump.
Which exercises should you do?
The most important consideration when advising on exercise as an Osteopath is to look at the activity levels of a patient before becoming pregnant. I am keen to advise women to undertake exercises that will help the body adjust and compensate as effectively as possible to the huge adaptations it is required to make from trimester to trimester. Where possible you want to incorporate exercises that help your muscles to work with one another in longer chains and support your growing bump. The following exercises can be used throughout pregnancy, with the trimester variances described below:
Kettlebell swings can be performed throughout pregnancy at a comfortable weight. They are great for working the hips and lower back to support your growing bump, whilst also helping to activate your core muscles without putting direct pressure on them as a move such as sit ups would do.
Squats - in the earlier stages, if you were doing some before, you can keep a bit of weight to squat down with, but if you’ve just begun exercising then a simple air squat is really efficient. As you progress through pregnancy, the weights should never jump up and as you get to the later stages, using a swiss ball between your back and the wall helps to support you.
Y’s and T’s. This is a great exercise for your core, shoulders and upper back. Standing with a slight flexion through the hips, keeping your arms straight lift them into a “T” shape and then a “Y” shape with hands above your head. These can be done throughout pregnancy, and when done slowly and steadily can provide even a good challenge for expectant dads!
Bump hang. Getting onto your hands and knees with hips and shoulders at 90 degrees allows you to hang your bump, which I am reliably informed is really comfortable as your bump grows and enjoyed by your baby, who gets to move around in all the extra room created.
What should you watch out for?
With any form of exercise that you wish to undertake during pregnancy, it is always recommended to talk to your health professional first. There are a few points that I encourage all of my pregnant patients to watch and pay attention to:
Keep your heart rate below 140bpm - if you want to exercise throughout pregnancy, it is worth investing in a good heart rate monitor.
Avoid exercising in the hotter temperatures, and regardless of temperature ensure you keep well hydrated.
Wear a non-underwired bra; it is a good idea to have your bust professionally measured regularly throughout your pregnancy.
Listen to your body, If at any point you feel like you can’t go on, stop and rest. If you’re not sure, then talk to your health practitioner.