What to expect (during training) when you’re expecting

Expectant moms often worry that exercise during pregnancy could harm their health or that of their developing baby.

However, if a pregnant woman is otherwise healthy, undergoes regular prenatal check-ups with her OBGYN and is not considered a high risk pregnancy, then there is absolutely nothing harmful about working out.

Baby bump benefits

In fact, numerous studies clearly show that prenatal exercise offers numerous health benefits for both mom and baby.

The many reasons why you should exercise during pregnancy:

  • Prevents or reduces back pain.
  • Prevents excess weight gain.
  • Reduces the risk of gestational diabetes.
  • Improves blood flow, which can reduce swelling and water retention.
  • Reduces the risk of pregnancy-induced high blood pressure.
  • Improves self-image throughout pregnancy and reduces the chances of having postpartum depression.
  • Increase your energy levels.
  • Prepares your body for labour and childbirth.
  • Decreases recovery time postpartum from either natural or cesarean deliveries.
Your pre-exercise checklist

There are, however, a few provisos to exercising while pregnant. First and foremost, getting the all-clear from your OBGYN is vital.

Carlene Steenekamp, a pre- and postnatal exercise specialist, adds that getting adequate sleep and eating a healthful and well balanced diet during your pregnancy are other prerequisites before diving into any exercise program.

Don’t exercise without strict medical supervision if you suffer from the following:

  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure.
  • Uncontrolled diabetes.
  • Heart disease.
  • Placenta previa (or other issues with the placenta).
  • History of preterm labour.

Those who haven’t trained for a while or at all prior to their pregnancy will need to be more cautious and would benefit greatly from consulting with a prenatal exercise specialist.

Ideal forms of exercise

It is generally recommended that healthy pregnant women get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily, most days of the week,” explains Carlene.

If you were physically active prior to your pregnancy, then there is a good chance that you can continue to exercise at the same level, as long as you are comfortable.

This includes high-impact activities such as running, which many women tend to avoid during pregnancy.

“As long as there are no health concerns and you’ve been cleared for exercise by your doctor, then you can continue to run for as long as your body lets you do so comfortably,” states Carlene.

In instances of beginner training; regular brisk walks are the ideal way to start incorporating exercise into your daily routine.

Some other great low-impact cardiovascular exercises include spinning and rowing.

Swimming also tends to be a very popular choice with moms-to-be, since water creates a weightlessness that soothes aching joints. Prenatal yoga and preggie Pilates are also popular options.

Weighing in on weights

And there’s no reason to avoid the weights room, especially if you trained with weights before your pregnancy.

According to Carlene, expectant moms can continue to follow a moderate weight training program, provided they follow these guidelines:

  • After the first trimester, avoid lying flat on your back (supine) to perform exercises. The size and weight of the uterus can put pressure on a major vein called the vena cava, which can restrict blood flow.
  • The hormone relaxin causes joints to loosen during pregnancy, so just be mindful of that before you lift anything too heavy.
  • Your core strength has been compromised by the lengthening and stretching of the abdominal muscles. As such, you have a higher risk of back injury once you start ‘showing’.

Despite these areas of concern, it is highly advisable to continue with your weight training during pregnancy.

However, your goal should always be to maintain your weight and health, not lose weight or get stronger. Pregnancy is not the time to push your limits or look to build muscle,” states Carlene.

Giorgina Slotar, an AFPA-certified pre- and postnatal exercise specialist and qualified personal trainer, says that training during pregnancy may include abdominal exercises.

“These exercises are not only safe during pregnancy, but are recommended. Shift focus to the types of abdominal exercises you do. You are not aiming to build a six-pack during pregnancy, but rather strengthen your core, specifically your deep core, which weakens during pregnancy due to stretching and hormonal changes that prepare a woman’s body for the birthing process.”

It is therefore extremely important to focus on strengthening your core, with specific attention paid to exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor and transverse abdominals, both of which comprise your deep core.

Read about: A guide to breastfeeding for active moms

An eye on intensity

Whichever form of exercise you choose to engage in, it is important to moderate your intensity. However, the old guideline of keeping your heart rate under 140bpm seems to be dated advice.

The best advice is to apply the ‘talk test’ to your training. You should break a sweat but should still be able to carry on with a conversation while training. If you can’t, you are probably pushing too hard,” advises Carlene.

*The information contained in this article should not be construed as medical advice. Pregnant should always consult with a qualified medical professional before starting any fitness or exercise regimen.