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Exercising While Pregnant: Top FAQ’s

October 19, 2017

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**DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor or health professional. What I am is a certified personal trainer and specialist in Pre/Post-natal fitness and currently pregnant myself. ALWAYS ensure that you first and foremost always listen to doctor and OF COURSE your own body. You will know better than anyone on how you are feeling. 

I just found out I am pregnant. Can I still continuing working out?

OF COURSE YOU CAN! However, there are a few things to take into account before you continue further with your current program.

1) Has your doctor placed any restrictions on you during your pregnancy? Some women can be more high risk than others and while exercise is generally safe for most women, this can’t be said for those who may be suffering complications or have a history of complications in the past.

2) What was your exercise program like prior to finding out you were pregnant? Unless you were involved in any program that included contact sports (soccer/lacrosse/karate/etc.), working in high heat, or laying only on your belly, most other programs are safe to continue. You may need to dial back intensity in certain areas (read below for more info on this) but as long as you feel good doing it…keep on truckin’ mama!

What if I wasn’t working out prior to finding out I was pregnant? 

Unfortunately this is a big myth that many women still fall victim too. No matter your fitness level when finding our you’re expecting, starting a fitness regime during pregnancy is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your growing bundle of joy. Even if that means all you do is walk, that is still something! However, if you are unsure on where to begin, check out my Online Training Program where we can tailor a program specific to you, your fitness level and stage in pregnancy.

Will exercise be safe to do in the first trimester?

From personal experience, I know how nerve wracking the first trimester can be. Especially when you know that the first trimester is the time when most miscarriages will happen. Its in knowing this that it is very common that many women get very nervous to do anything in the first trimester, especially exercise. While it is terribly sad, a miscarriage is just one of those things that just happen and don’t illicit any blame. In fact, most miscarriages are a result of things out of our control such as genetic abnormalities.

So with this in mind, there has never been any link ever established that has shown exercise to cause a miscarriage in the first trimester. According to the ACOG (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists), it is perfectly safe to start/continue exercise as long as you have been in good health and have your doctors approval.

What are the benefits of exercising during pregnancy?

  • Healthier Mamas
    • Reduces back pain and other pregnancy discomforts
    • Eases constipation
    • Decrease your risk of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia
    • Promotes healthy weight gain during pregnancy
    • Improved balance, stability (lessen chance of falling)
    • Improved self-esteem
    • Better sleep
    • More energy throughout the day
  • Healthier Babies
    • According to a research study, Exercising Through Your Pregnancy by Dr. James Clapp, he found that babies born to mothers who worked out while pregnant experienced the following:
      • Improved physical health scores when born
      • Increased intelligence scores
      • Fewer fetal Interventions
      • Fewer pregnancy complications
      • Improved nutrient/waste exchange while in womb
  • Easier Labors
    • Less time spent in labors
    • Decrease likelihood of needing a C-Section
    • Decreased need for pain relief
    • Decreased risk of needing non-surgical interventions (pitocin, vacuum, forceps, etc.)
  • Better bounce back
    • Better muscle memory
    • Improved endurance/strength
    • Muscle loss is limited
    • Less risk for Diastis Recti (Abdominal separation), which will help core return to pre-pregnancy strength and condition

Who should not engage in exercise while pregnant?

For anyone who has been diagnosed with a medical problem, it is CRUCIAL you receive doctors approval before starting any fitness regime. Exercise can be harmful for any woman who is or has experienced any of the following:

  • Any bleeding or spotting
  • Low placenta
  • History of recurrent miscarriage
  • History of premature births/labors

How often should I exercise during pregnancy? 

This depends on you. How often were you working out prior to finding out you were pregnant and how are you feeling? If you started off already in an established fitness regime of 5-6 days, then you should be safe to continue as long as its not to the point of exhaustion. HOWEVER, women who started off out of shape should start off slow and perhaps aim to workout every other day. Slowly you can start to build up more of a continuous schedule and add in more days but it is important to not take on too much at first if your body is not already used to it.

As far as how much time to spend working out, I always recommend aiming to try and get at least 30 minutes. If you feel great and do more, AWESOME! And if you are having an off day and can only do 10 minutes, well that counts too! Remember, the important thing is just to move. Pregnancy is NOT a time for meeting/exceeding new fitness goals.

Can I work my core still while pregnant? 

This is a great question and one that many women get confused/concerned about. When you are in the first trimester, most abdominal exercises are still on the table. However, I like to make this decision on a case-by-case basis because some women show earlier/later than others. If you find that you are a early shower and can feel your belly starting to expand, than it may be time to start modifying. If you are someone who’s belly doesn’t pop until late than you should still be perfectly able to still perform standard ab exercises.

Now when you finally do get to the point where there is no hiding your cute little bump, then it is time to modify and avoid certain ab exercises. Crunches, planks, pushups, knee tucks, anything that involves rotation/twisting should be AVOIDED. Instead things like bird dogs, side planks, standing side bends, balance exercise and much more are still perfectly safe for any stage of pregnancy. To see what these exercises look like, check out my  Instagram for more!

Can I still lay on my back while exercising?

As a general rule of thumb, most sites and doctors will tell you that anything that involves laying on your back after the first trimester is off limits. HOWEVER, this is not always true. The reason they tell you this is because as your uterus grows, it is possible that the weight of it when lying down can press on a major vein (located in your belly), limiting blood flow to both you and your baby. While THIS IS TRUE and super scary sounding, it does not mean that it will happen the moment you are on your back.

For this very reason, I tell my clients that they are perfectly safe to lie on their backs BUT they need to be aware of how they are feeling at all times. If at any time they feel lightheaded, nauseous, have a headache or feel dizzy than it is time stop, get up and modify. Each woman is different in this, so as with many other things I treat this answer on a case-by-case basis as well. Some women are perfectly fine lying on their backs for extended periods (heck I myself still find myself waking up in the middle of the night flat as a board) while others get lightheaded within seconds.

If you are still nervous and unsure then the best way to go is to play it safe and adjust your position so that you are instead laying on an incline. This way you can reduce the pressure on your belly and still be able to achieve the same movements you were going for when lying on your back.

What is the best way to monitor heart rate while working out? 

Years ago, it was recommended that pregnant women keep their heart rate below 140 beats per minute. While those strict guidelines have since been eliminated, many doctors still use this as a rule and prescribe to this theory. HOWEVER, today experts in the medical field are saying you don’t need to stick to any specific heart rate limits while exercising during pregnancy. Instead, what they recommend is using the “talk test.” In other words, if you are finding yourself unable to maintain a conversation while working out, then you may be going a bit too hard. On a scale 1-10 (1=extremely easy, 10= extreme exhaustion) pregnant women should be aiming to stay around a 6/7.

When should I STOP exercising?

If at any point you start to feel any of the following symptoms, it is IMPORTANT that you stop immediately and contact your doctor/midwiffe.

  • Feel any type of pain in the chest
  • Experiencing cramping or persistent contractions
  • Feel a headache coming on
  • Finding absence/ decrease in your babies movements
  • Feel faint, dizzy, nauseous, or light-headed.
  • Feel cold or clammy.
  • Experience bleeding
  • Have a sudden gush of fluid or a trickle of fluid that leaks steadily.
  • Experiencing irregular or rapid heartbeat.
  • Sudden swelling (ankles, hands, face, or calf pain.)
  • Experiencing shortness of breath.
  • Experiencing muscle weakness or difficulty walking

 

 

 

 

 

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