Here is part two of my pregnancy misconceptions that are exercise related
Myth: Pregnant women shouldn’t exercise if they didn’t exercise before.
There is NO better time to start.
Walking and swimming are great cardiovascular exercises that you can do without instruction. Starting gradually and gently, listen to your body and take tabs on when you need rest.
Start with 3 x 15minutes per week, each week add an additional two minutes until you reach a total of 30 minutes, then increase to 4 x weekly.
Pre-natal classes are safe and delivered in a supportive environment, also giving you opportunity to get to know other mum-to-be’s! Get involved, talk to the instructor, and make friends; it also becomes a great way to stay accountable to attend regular exercise classes.
Strength/resistance training using weights, machines and bodyweight can be modified and continued through your trimesters safely and bring enormous benefits to your pregnancy.I highly recommend all pregnant mammas to get guidance and support from a pre-natal qualified trainer for safe and effective lifting, this is a valuable investment for your body, your life and future. They can guide you through exercises that are safe and specific to pregnancy from which you will reap huge benefits.
See below myth: Pregnant women should stay away from the weights room.
Myth; Pregnant women should stay away from the weights room.
There are so many benefits of resistance training during pregnancy.
- Women may find they can tolerate their heavier body weight and altered center of gravity better with muscle strengthening during pregnancy.
- Strength training will help your body adapt to the physiological changes that occur during pregnancy helping the body maintain good posture as the bump and breasts increase in size and weight, and help preserve muscular strength in the muscles which would otherwise weaken.
- Focusing on technique during our resistance sessions develops a greater awareness of how we move in every-day life. Having the knowledge and ability to change into better postures will decrease stress on joints, ligaments, and muscles.
- Strengthening the muscles around the birth canal will help your body with the physical demands of labor and delivery. Exercise examples are modified squats and deadlifts
Squats are one of 12 natural positions for birth. This exercise, performed with your body weight or additional weight will help you maintain good movement and mobility through the pelvis as well as strengthening around the birth canal.
Deadlifts especially focus on lower back strength and also strengthening the muscles around the birth canal. Strong legs and glutes are helpful in supporting the pelvis and growing baby as well as preparing you for the physical demands of birth.
- Losing body fat and returning to pre-pregnancy shape will be a lot easier after birth as a result of retaining lean muscle mass during Pregnancy, which will give the body a faster BMR which is an increase in rate that the body is able to burn off calories.
- Staying active, mobile and strong during pregnancy will prepare you for the physical demands of motherhood and all the bending, lifting and carrying it requires. Carrying car seats, pram folding, baby carrying, baby changing, laundry lifting, picking up dropped toys and snacks, its endless. It’s important that we are strong and mobile enough to not only carry out our role as a mum without developing aches, pains and strains, but also enjoy the demands it requires to look after our babies.
I highly recommend all pregnant mammas to get guidance and support from a pre-natal qualified trainer for safe and effective lifting, this is a valuable investment for your body, your life and future. They can guide you through exercises that are safe and specific to pregnancy from which you will reap huge benefits.
Just one last benefit that I found…Keeping up with a strength training routine during pregnancy has really helped me build confidence in my body and its ability to do what it needs to do when the time comes!
When it comes to trying something new that may bring a risk to yourself and/or baby its best to say NO.
Serena Williams may be able to play tennis until 33 weeks pregnant but would I/we start playing tennis at any stage during our pregnancy? Absolutely not, it’s not something we are used to playing, the sport demands a lot of change in direction and involves lots of sudden movements such as twisting and jumping.
You may see gymnasts still doing walkovers in their third trimester or Olympic lifters still doing overhead squats, these are activities that aren’t advised during pregnancy but are continued to be exercised safely throughout pregnancy by experienced athletes, usually accompanied with guidance and support from an experienced coach.
If the new exercise is a low risk activity such as walking or swimming, or if the exercise choice has a safe and supportive environment with pre-natal guidance then it can be a great decision to start and continue throughout the trimesters for a healthier pregnancy for mum and baby.
Myth: Pregnant women should NOT stretch their muscles after Trimester 1.
Stretching will bring great benefits to the pregnant body, helping us feel more relaxed, mobile and pain free but it’s important that we follow the below guidelines for safe stretching.
Safe stretching during Pregnancy
- Chose simple stretches that target the belly of the muscle that needs stretching.
- Avoid holding a stretch for too long. (15-30 secs are enough to lengthen the muscle.)
- Avoid over-stretching or stretching for increased flexibility.
- Avoid advanced stretches like the splits or the frog stretch or any stretch that places pressure on other joints such as the knees.
Why is it important to follow these guidelines?
Relaxin is a hormone released during pregnancy to relax the ligaments and tissues and allow the pelvis to open for delivery. This means we need to be more protective of our joints and muscles as they are more susceptible to pulls and strains.
Relaxin peaks in the body at weeks 14 of Pregnancy, at Birth and up to 10 weeks after and longer if you continue to breastfeed. During this time, it’s important to take precautions when stretching, making sure you prepare your body for exercise with a longer warmup and cooldown than usual.
The laxity of the ligaments and tissues will result in the muscles tightening up to compensate, so safe stretching will bring great benefits to the pregnant body, helping you feel more relaxed, mobile and pain free.
Pre-Natal Yoga Classes are great for safe and effective stretching and can really help relax your back, stretch your inner thighs, open up your hips and thoracic area and will focus on breathing during all the movements which can serve greatly in labor and help you feel better during your pregnancy.
Myth: Pregnant women should not bring their heart rate above 140bpm when exercising.
This was the very first guideline given in 1985 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, by 1994 those strict guidelines were eliminated due to the variability in maternal heart rate responses to exercise, target heart rates could no longer be used to monitor exercise intensity in pregnancy.
The ACOG new guidelines now state that you don’t need to stick to a specific heart rate limit while exercising during pregnancy but to exercise at an intensity based on the RPE scale. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/37/1/6 (reference 54)
RPE (Rate of perceived exertion) has been found to be more beneficial during pregnancy as an alternative to heart rate monitoring of exercise intensity.
Intensity of exercise during Pregnancy is recommended to be moderate, ratings of perceived exertion falling between 12–14 (somewhat hard) on the 6–20 scale which translates to between 4-6 on a scale of 1-10.
Another good indicator of exercising at a moderate intensity is the talk test.
Talk Test– making sure you can speak a full sentence during exercise.
|1||Very light activity|
|2||Light activity, maintainable for hours|
|3||Light activity, easy to breathe.|
|4||Moderate activity, a little more challenging|
|5||Moderate activity, somewhat hard|
|6||Moderate activity, can hold a short conversation|
|7||Hard, becoming uncomfortable|
|8||Hard, becoming short of breath|
|9||Very hard, difficult to maintain exercise intensity|
|10||Max effort, feels impossible to keep going|
Myth: Pregnant women should not lie on their back during exercise
Lying on your back up until week 16 of pregnancy is of no concern. After week 16 of pregnancy it’s best to be cautious. Lying on your back for too long when the bump becomes heavy canput pressure on the vena cava which is the largest vein in the body that pumps blood back up to the heart. Depending on the size and weight on the bump, the pressure on this vein may cause mum to get dizzy.
However, it’s important to know that you will get plenty of signals from the brain to move from this position into a more comfortable one if the pressure becomes too much.
This means that even when you are in a deep sleep lying on your back, if there is too much pressure on the vena cava, your body’s central nervous system (that is in highly protective mode during pregnancy) will wake you up with signals to change positions to become more comfortable.
So, you can lie on your back during pregnancy but it’s important to be more body attentive after week 16. You can always opt for alternative exercises and positions, you can adjust your supine exercises to an incline position and choose alternate exercises that you can do standing up or sitting down in order to feel more comfortable.
Myth: Pregnant women should not exercise their abdominals.
It is generally safe to continue training our abdominals using traditional ab exercises up to around 12-14 weeks of pregnancy (less if it’s your second or third pregnancy), towards the end of the first trimester the increasing growth of the uterus and its resulting pressure on the abdominal wall causes the tissue between the rectus abdominal muscles to stretch, creating a gap that can be worsened through certain exercises such as crunches and sit-ups. Following weeks 12-14 you can continue to strengthen your abdominals throughout the remainder of the pregnancy but you need to take care if you choose to do so, and focus on engaging the deep inner core muscles rather than the rectus abdominals (superficial ‘six pack’ muscles).A strong core can alleviate pressure on your back and support proper posture, decreasing the risk oflower back pain which is common during pregnancy so it is important to incorporate core training during pregnancy.
**If you feel like you cannot keep the abdominal wall closed during a movement it is too much for the body. Coning is a sign that there is too much pressure on the abdominal walls and a sign that you’re not recruiting the right muscles.
Three bodyweight exercises you CAN’T do for three exercises you CAN do.
- Exchange crunches with TVA breathing (The Transverse Abdominal muscle is the thick deep core muscle that wraps around the torso and is one of the four core muscles whose primary action is to draw everything in and pull your B/B in towards your spine. Lying supine, knees bent, feet flat on the floor, breathe out all of the air in your lungs, at the bottom of exhalation focus on contracting your deep abdominal muscles drawing your belly button in and upwards (without lifting the diaphragm). Activating this muscle will help bring the two separated halves of Rectus abdominals together preventing the gap increasing and to help close the gap in post-partum recovery.
TVA breathing is much more important than all the exercises and is important to focus on especially during pregnancy and for recovery and does take practice before becoming automatic so be patient.
- Exchange full sit-up with dead bug heel slides
Arms perpendicular to the floor, bare feet flat on the floor, inhale and extend your opposite arm/leg, keeping foot in contact with the floor, return to starting position in the same way and at the same time sucking the stomach into the bench and exhaling.
**Even if an exercise is advised as suitable for all three trimesters if you find it causes too much abdominal pressure or may be uncomfortable then it’s advisable to stop.
- Exchange front plank with side plank
Elbows under shoulder, neutral spine, activate your TVA, suck in while holding your plank position. The weight on the abdominal wall, as well as the weight of the internal organs are now on the lateral abdominal wall so it’s easier to hold than a front plank and will not encourage abdominal separation.
My next published blog will delve into Diastasis Recti; what it is, how to prevent it happening and how to reconnect and repair our abdominals when we have it, along with plenty of exercise examples for you to do at home.
I hope these blogs have helped clear up some of the myths that you may have heard or believed regarding what we can and cannot do during pregnancy. I hope this blog has given you more confidence on how to exercise safely during your workouts and encouraged you to continue a healthy and happy pregnancy. If you have any comments or questions, happy to help!