Pre-Natal & Post-Natal Fitness
Exercising during and after pregnancy is an outstanding way to enhance the health and well-being of expectant and new mothers and their babies. Exercise during pregnancy represents a relatively new and evolving paradigm within the healthcare and fitness landscapes.
Up until recently it was believed that exercising during pregnancy could put an expectant mother and her baby at higher risk for complications. But new research continues to challenge and refute these claims. As the research increasingly demonstrates, prenatal exercise can have the following benefits:
Control excessive weight gain
Reduce the risk of miscarriage
Reduce the need for cesarean section
Lower the risk of preterm birth
Prevent and manage preeclampsia
Reduce the risk of and manage Gestational Diabetes
Increase strength, especially for new mothers who have to lift and carry their baby, baby carriages and everything else.
Women who exercise during pregnancy and after can enjoy the many other benefits that exercise offers such as:
Improved mental health and lowered risk of depression and anxiety
Enhanced cognitive function and ability to focus
Injury prevention for old and new injuries
Increased overall strength, balance and coordination
Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks
Enjoyment and fun
Improved social life by exercising with others
Whether a mother-to-be is new to exercise or an experienced fitness enthusiast, working out regularly while pregnant is both safe and effective. But the exercise program should be carefully designed, creatively modified as the body changes throughout the pregnancy and always done in consultation with one’s Physician.
It’s time to treat pregnancy not as an obstacle to physical exercise but as an opportunity for women to empower themselves as their bodies change and their lives transform postpartum.
Training the body during pregnancy has been shown to enhance recovery and well-being after birth, which is a time when women are especially vulnerable to postpartum depression, physical repercussions from pregnancy, labor and both postural and hormonal changes as well as isolation and lack of sleep while nursing newborns.
“Physical activity in pregnancy has minimal risks and has been shown to benefit most women, although some modification to exercise routines may be necessary because of normal anatomic and physiologic changes and fetal requirements. Women with uncomplicated pregnancies should be encouraged to engage in aerobic and strength-conditioning exercises before, during, and after pregnancy”. - American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG)
Trimester by Trimester
As you know, many, many changes occur during pregnancy including hormonal, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, neurological changes and more. So when designing an exercise program and when participating in each workout, one should know what these changes are and how exercise can affect and be affected by them, both negatively and positively in each trimester.
As a woman progresses through each trimester, it is essential that she and her personal trainer know how exercise training protocols and guidelines change as well. The parameters, for example, during week 10 are vastly different than they are during week 32.
And remember, it is essential that one consult her doctor before participating in an exercise program and be sure to consult throughout the entire pregnancy to ensure it is a safe and effective program.
If you exercise regularly prior to your pregnancy, then keep it up during the first trimester. If you don’t exercise regularly, starting during pregnancy is still safe and healthy as long as you take it slow and consult with your healthcare provider.
There are certain changes during the first trimester that may pose unique challenges to working out. Many women experience chronic fatigue and nausea during the first trimester, therefore making it difficult to plan in advance, be consistent, finish a workout and exercise vigorously.
Constipation, heartburn, frequent urination and aversions to food and smells are not uncommon as well, all of which can further interfere with exercise during the first trimester. Sensitivity to high temperatures and the caution that should be used in raising body temperature also may create some limitations.
With all of this said, it is still possible and still beneficial to exercise during the first trimester of pregnancy. The key is not to overexert one’s self, especially as each woman gradually becomes more familiar with the continuous changes that take place and how her body adjusts to them.
Some good exercises to try during the first trimester include cardiovascular training such as running, walking, swimming, water aerobics, stationary biking and elliptical trainers. Pilates and pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and deep abdominals are also usually safe and effective. Light to moderate strength training to keep all of the body’s muscles strong and toned is also good.
It’s important to listen to your body, to avoid elevating your body temperature too high and to be cautious as your body changes during the first trimester. If you follow these basic guidelines as well as communicate with your personal trainer and doctors throughout the process, you should experience many benefits from exercise in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy with low risk to you and your baby.
As the fatigue and nausea hopefully begin to dissipate, exercise may become easier and more enjoyable during the second trimester than perhaps it was during the first. This of course varies greatly for each woman.
Among other benefits, exercise during the second trimester can mitigate weight gain, enhance sleep, maintain muscle tone, improve balance and coordination, increase energy, reduce stress and decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression.
“30 minutes of strenuous activity is well tolerated by pregnant women and their babies during the second trimester if they’ve been active.” - ACOG
Always remember to consult with your healthcare provider if you intend to make significant changes in your exercise routine during the second trimester, or at any time during your pregnancy for that matter.
One of the most important considerations is whether a pregnant woman in her second trimester has developed a Diastasis Recti. This is when a tear forms in the lining of the rectus abdominus muscle. If one is present, certain exercises such as abdominal crunches, quadripeds on all fours, front-loaded planks and certain rotational movements may be contraindicated.
After 20 weeks women should not perform exercises on their back because doing so can compromise blood flow to the baby. Stay away from contact sports, activities that might cause falling and avoid overheating or exercising in high temperatures, as this could harm both the mother and baby.
Some great ways to stay fit during the second trimester include controlled cardiovascular activities such as jogging, brisk walking, stationary cycling, elliptical machines, stairmasters and moderate HIIT workouts. Mild to moderate strength training can help you maintain muscle tone, increase strength, reduce back pain and control weight gain. Using weight machines and exercising with a qualified personal trainer are helpful ways to stay safe.
Even though exercise may become increasingly more difficult in the third trimester due to fatigue, back pain, lack of mobility and a myriad of other factors, doing so still offers many very important benefits to expectant mothers and their babies.
As with the first and second trimesters, exercise during the third can help enhance sleep and concentration, maintain strength and muscle tone, reduce back pain, increase energy and control weight gain. But exercise during the third trimester can also help prepare women for labor and make the postpartum transition easier.
Avoid laying on your back. This may compromise blood flow to the baby. Proper exercise form and technique become even more important due to the many orthopedic and musculoskeletal changes that have taken place. Working with a personal trainer can help ensure proper technique and safety.
Consult with your doctor, especially if you have a high-risk pregnancy. Stop exercising if you experience contractions, vaginal bleeding, lightheadedness or severe cramping. Always listen to your body and communicate with your trainer and doctor along the way.
Exercise After Childbirth
Exercise post-pregnancy is a fantastic way for women to stay healthy and empowered. Specifically, exercise postpartum can help decrease and manage depression, relieve stress, increase energy, enhance sleep, and strengthen abdominal muscles that may have weakened during pregnancy.
Exercise of course can improve strength, improve posture, improve balance and reduce back pain. This is very important as babies continue to grow in weight and size. Increased strength can also help women prevent injury and exhaustion from all the inevitable heavy lifting - baby carriages, for example - and bending over.
Exercise is am amazing way for women to bond with their babies. There are many exercises that can be done with a baby present and even holding the baby, for example while performing squats. There are “mommy and me” yoga and small group exercise classes which can also enhance a woman’s social life and avoid isolation.
In summary, exercise is a safe and empowering way for pregnant women and new mothers to improve many aspects of their health, from the physical to the emotional to the psychological. Exercise should be a central priority during and after pregnancy. The risks are very low and the benefits are vast and powerful.
I worked out with Mark throughout my entire pregnancy. I knew halfway through the first session he was going to be a perfect trainer for me. In addition to ensuring I got a great workout, he was very particular about my form and extremely knowledgable when it came to putting together a program tailored exactly to my body's past injuries and prenatal challenges. As both a massage therapist and a personal trainer, he is many steps above so many other trainers due to his education in both fields. His light stretches and pressure point work after a challenging workout makes for a great end to the session. I highly recommend Mark whether you are pregnant or not!!!