Perhaps, you’re wondering how to keep up your exercise routine now that you’re pregnant, or maybe you’d like to get into exercise now that you’re expecting. Whatever it may be, working out while pregnant is a good choice for you and your baby!
Health Benefits for Mom ...
Working out can lower your chances of getting gestational diabetes or preeclampsia, and having to have a C-section. Plus, it can improve your mood, reduce lower back pain, and help you recover faster postpartum. Women who exercise throughout pregnancy and postpartum are much more likely to return to their pre-pregnancy weight.
… And Baby!
Working out can lower your baby’s risk of low birth weight and preterm birth. It may also help your child’s motor skills and language development as a toddler, and academic and sports performance as a teen.
What to Avoid:
Don’t do hot yoga or anything that will cause you to overheat, especially during the first trimester. Don’t lie flat on your back for long periods of time. Avoid contact sports and workouts that include the risk of falling, such as bouldering, skiing, rollerblading, etc. Don’t do heavy lifting, unless it’s something you regularly did before pregnancy (or your doctor clears it). Basically, you want to keep your body temperature even, make sure you don’t get dehydrated, and ensure you’re getting enough oxygen for you and your baby (no scuba diving, sorry). Don’t do high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which can exhaust you.
How to Prep:
Wear supportive clothing, drink lots of water throughout your workout, and talk to your doctor if you’re new to working out or have any conditions that might make it difficult. (Also, try our pregnancy pre-workout PerformHer, which supports your energy levels, endurance, and muscle recovery during pregnancy.)
Throughout your trimesters, get plenty of aerobic exercise, such as swimming, walking, cycling, and jogging. It’s recommended that you get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Get two to three days of strength training in as well. You should also work on exercises that will support your body during pregnancy and labor, such as ones that strengthen your core and increase spinal mobility. With any workout, if you aren’t feeling stable, use a chair or wall for support. Go easy on yourself.
If you’re not a high-risk pregnancy, you should be able to continue whatever workout routine you had before your pregnancy.
If you’re familiar with yoga, this pose is similar to bridge pose. It strengthens your core and works on your spinal mobility. Lie on your back with your knees hip width apart. Make sure your feet are flat on the floor, close to your butt, and facing forward. You can keep your arms lying next to you with your hands facedown. Tuck your pelvis, so that you press your spine on the floor. Keep your pelvis tucked, slowly lift each vertebrae of your spine up off the floor. Once you reach your shoulder blades, stop and slowly lower your spine vertebrae by vertebrae back down to the floor. Repeat 12-15 times. For an added challenge, put your legs together.
Squats keep the muscles of your lower body strong, which will protect your lower back as you gain pregnancy weight. Use a couch as a prop to ensure proper form. Stand in front of the couch, close enough as if you were going to sit on it, with your legs hip width apart. Exhale and squat down like you’re about to sit for a count of five, then inhale and rise again, just as your legs are about to touch the couch, for a count of three. Do 15-20 reps, twice.
Many women say this is the trimester where they feel their most energized. It’s also an important time to start stretching, especially your lower body.
Find a railing or ledge, and place your hands shoulder width apart on it. Keeping your hands on the railing or ledge, move your body back into a standing plank position. Keep your feet hip width apart. Lower your chest toward the railing or ledge, and then raise yourself back up. Do 10-12 reps, twice.
Hip Flexor and Quadriceps Stretch:
This stretch is great for your hip flexor muscles, which shorten as your belly grows. Kneel down on one knee (as if you’re proposing). Keeping your posture tall, lean into your kneeling leg, as if you’re lunging forward. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat twice. Switch sides, and stretch three times on the other side, too.
During the third trimester, you may be feeling slower as your body preps for labor.
Plié Squat and Pulse:
Move your feet wider than hip-width apart, toes pointed out. Hold a small weight in your hands with your arms extended down. Lift your chest up and engage your core. Lower your butt in a squat, trying to get your thighs as parallel to the ground as you can. Pulse one inch up, one inch down, and then come back up to standing. Repeat 15 times.
Tabletop Booty Lift:
Get into tabletop position: On a yoga mat, get down on your hands and knees with your hands directly underneath your shoulders. Reach one leg back behind you, with your toes on the ground. Engage your core, and make sure your back is flat. Lift your leg up and lower, letting your toes rest lightly on the ground. Repeat 15 times on both sides.
The emotional and mental recovery from giving birth can take six months to a year. Listen to your body, and don’t rush to get back to your “normal” routine. Right after giving birth, you may want to practice the 5-5-5 method, described by personal trainer and birth doula Laura Jawad. Right after giving birth, spend the first five days laying in bed, spend the next five days sitting up in bed, and spend the last five days near the bed (doing relaxed things around your house). Jawad also advises postpartum mothers to be aware of the three Ps when starting an exercise routine: peeing, pain, and pressure. Should you experience any of these while moving, give yourself longer to rest and consider consulting a doctor or physical therapist. At your six-week check-up, you’ll generally get the go-ahead to start exercising again. Don’t put stress on the upper body, especially if you have Diastasis Recti, or the separation of the abdominal muscles, until you’ve healed. Once you’re ready to move, do chest stretches to help reduce back pain. Walking, swimming, and biking are good aerobic exercises to start. Postpartum exercise can be a powerful way to energize your body, manage your stress and mood, and promote better sleep.
Sources: Healthline, the Bump, the Bump, ACOG.org, LauraJawad.com, SweatyAsAMother.com