Pregnancy is a remarkable and transformative experience in a woman’s life. It brings about a plethora of physical and emotional changes, making it essential to prioritize self-care and overall well-being. One of the best ways to achieve this is through regular exercise explicitly tailored for pregnant women.
Why Exercise During And After Pregnancy?
Exercise is not only safe during pregnancy but the exercise provides many benefits to the mother and the baby. Studies have shown that women who exercise at a moderate intensity for 30- minutes, 3 or 4 times a week will experience the following positive changes.
- Reduced chance of constipation, haemorrhoids, bloating, and swelling.
- Improved self-image, mood, and posture.
- Increased energy
- Better Sleep
- Better muscle strength and endurance.
- Less body fat.
- Reduced risk of gestational diabetes.
- Lower chances of Caesarean Section birth.
The benefits do not stop with the mother. Babies born to women who exercise
- Tend to be leaner.
- Less cranky
- Less likely to be colic
- Have higher general intelligence scores and better oral language skills.
Many women are afraid to exercise once they become pregnant because they are unsure what exercises are acceptable and which might not be okay. Being an internationally certified pre-and post-natal fitness instructor, I would like to give you some tips, suggestions, and safe exercises you can do during pregnancy. Contact us for a customized pregnancy workout plan.
ACOG has set certain guidelines for pregnancy workouts, which encourage a pregnant lady to exercise for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity which should be spread throughout the week.
Common Pregnancy Workout Guidelines for Each Trimester
- Always talk to your gynaecologists before beginning an exercise program.
- Most forms of exercise are safe like walking, swimming, or low-impact water exercises.
- After the first trimester, women should avoid exercises on their backs.
- Avoid exercises in hot and humid climates.
- Wear comfortable clothes.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Consume adequate meals during pregnancy.
- Avoid activities like hot yoga, hot Pilates, skydiving, and scuba diving.
5 Warning Signs: When You Should Stop Exercising During Pregnancy
- Call your doctor in case of vaginal bleeding.
- Increased shortness of breath.
- Fluid leakage from the vagina.
Safe Pregnancy Exercises in First Trimester
The first trimester may be physically challenging for women who are suffering from morning sickness, sluggish digestion, and fatigue. These physical ailments can be emotionally taxing on women. The first trimester is often when women worry about the success of pregnancy. While these concerns may be real and scary for a soon-to-be mom, many women are misinformed and believe that exercise in the first trimester increases the chance of miscarriage. In a normal and healthy pregnancy, exercise in the first trimester is both important and safe.
The main goal of the exercises in the first trimester is to Build strength – The first trimester is a great time to begin with strength building.
1. Core Strengthening
Often women ask if it’s safe to train abdominals during pregnancy. The answer is yes. Strong abs help carry the weight of the growing fetus. It’s important to train your transverse abdominals. Most women are familiar only with rectus abdominis (exterior abdominals). Transverse abdominals are your interior or deepest abdominals.
4 Best Modified Abdominal Exercises
- Abdominal exercises on the stability ball
- Modified Plank
- Modified Push-ups
2. Pelvic Floor Strengthening
Pelvic floor goes through massive changes during and post-pregnancy.
Kegel Exercise is the best exercise to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. If a woman has a strong pelvic floor, she will also have strong abdominals because both are interlinked. When pelvic muscles contract, transverse abdominals contract automatically. Kegel exercises also prevent urinary incontinence and offer faster healing after delivery.
3. Strengthening Lower Back
It’s very important to have a strong back. Strengthening these muscles will ensure good posture during pregnancy.
Best Lower Back Exercises
- Wall sits
- Bird Dog
4. Lower Body Strengthening
It is very important to build strong legs to carry the body weight as the pregnancy progresses. In addition, lower body strength can help prevent a problem like varicose veins which is very common during pregnancy.
Best Exercises for Legs
- Outer and Inner Thigh Raises
Note: It’s always safe to work under a certified instructor’s guidance. Nidhi is an internationally certified pre-and post-natal fitness instructor from American Council on Exercise (ACE). Contact her for help.
Second Trimester of Pregnancy
The second Trimester also called the honeymoon trimester, is the best part of pregnancy. Morning sickness starts to subside and energy levels increase. The doctor’s appointment confirms the heartbeat and the fear of miscarriage decreases. At this stage, women have an increased motivation to eat healthily and become more physically active.
Safe Pregnancy Exercises in Second Trimester
In the second trimester, the relaxin hormone has a great impact on the exercises because it’s coupled with weight gain and changing the centre of gravity. It also softens the ligaments around the S.I Joint. As the weight increases, the uterus grows in size hence shifting women’s center of gravity which causes lordosis and extra strain on low back muscles. The upper back is also affected in the second trimester leading to kyphosis, and rounding of shoulders. The second Trimester is also the time when women are no longer sleeping on their back, they may feel numbness or tingling in their legs.
The most important workout aim of this 2nd trimester is
- Proper warm-up – 8-12 minutes of warm-up for a cardio-based workout and strength training as well.
- Learn Position Modifications – At this stage, women should avoid exercises that put them completely on their back as well as exercises on their stomach. Most exercises can be done by changing the angle to 30 degrees. Abdominal exercises can be done on a stability ball, side lying, or on all fours.
- Continue core, back, and pelvic floor strengthening exercises.
- Balance and posture training – Balance training should be included in all prenatal workouts. Because of all changes in body weight, body shape, center of gravity, and joint stability, balance is compromised.
- Upper-back workouts are to be included.
Third Trimester of Pregnancy
The Third Trimester is an exciting, but overwhelming, time for most pregnant women. Difficulty in sleeping, aches and pains in the lower back, and joints along with swelling, are all the reasons for the woman not to work out. But let me remind you again that women who exercise throughout the pregnancy experience less weight gain and have a quicker return to pre-pregnancy weight than those who do not exercise.
The third trimester also sees a lot of physiological changes like pregnancy brain, skeletal and postural changes, shortness of breath, swelling and carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica, varicose veins, abdominal separation, and gestational diabetes.
Safe Pregnancy Exercise in Third Trimester
The main goal of the third-trimester pregnancy exercise should be
- Encouraging water-based exercises – Water-based exercise is the only type of exercise that ACOG recommends pregnant women can do with little or no modification. Exercises on the back are also absolutely acceptable in water. The best pool temperature for a pregnant lady to work out is 82-84 degrees. Pregnant ladies should not work out in the pool at over 88 degrees. Women should stop the water-based exercise if they have begun to dilate. The benefits of water-based exercises are that it offers 12 times more resistance than land-based exercises, increased circulation, reduced swelling, and is safe even for beginners.
- Posture damage control
- Flexibility and Stretching: Yoga, cat-cow, pigeon pose, child’s pose
- Pelvic Floor/ Kegel exercise
It’s safe to work out during pregnancy if you have your doctor’s consent and the pregnancy is healthy. Always, do the workouts under the instructor’s supervision. Exercises during pregnancy have a lot of benefits not only for the mother but also for the fetus.