Pregnancy is a time of great excitement, bringing with it physical and emotional changes that prepare every new mother’s body for the process of giving birth to a healthy infant.
While many women and their partners dream of the day when they will become proud parents, the physical changes that occur in the body of a pregnant woman mean that diet and exercise schedules have to be adjusted to ensure a pregnancy that is safe for both mother and child while preventing too much unnecessary weight gain or loss of fitness. The following tips should prepare you for continuing your fitness regime while pregnant:
Should pregnant women exercise at all?
Many women are concerned about the effects of strenuous exercise on their health and the health of their babies while they are pregnant. Most experts agree that women who exercise actively before falling pregnant should continue their fitness regime during pregnancy to ensure a healthy body and good fitness levels. However, the type of exercises that should be undertaken by a pregnant woman will change as her pregnancy progresses.
Considerations for exercise across each trimester:
1st Trimester (0-13 weeks)
Aerobic and resistance training may continue as long as the client feels comfortable and flexibility can remain normal. Care should be taken when getting up from the floor or bench as a lower blood pressure may cause light headedness.
2nd Trimester (14-27 weeks)
Aerobic activities should switch to lower impact such as the bike, walking, X-trainer, swimming or aqua classes. Due to the woman’s changing body shape some resistance machines may be inaccessible and can dictate what equipment can be used. Moderate weights should be used and a stable base of support should be maintained at all times. Supine work (lying down face up) should be avoided. Flexibility and stretching are encouraged but only gentle stretches due to the hormone Relaxin softening ligament joints.
3rd Trimester (28-40 weeks)
Continue with low impact and non-bouncing activities such as walking and swimming.
If using weights avoid isometric work, lifting weights above the head and holding breath during exertion. Supine work should still be avoided and a stable base should be held at all times including when stretching. Gentle stretches should be adopted.
What kinds of exercise are suitable?
Pregnant women should avoid strenuous impact exercises, particularly heavy weightlifting and extreme sports, not only could this cause long term problems for the mother’s body but because there is also a chance of falling and injuring themselves or their babies. Aerobic exercises, especially those which take place in the gym, are usually suitable for pregnant women providing care is taken not to over exert the expectant mother especially in trimester 2 and 3. Resistance bands are also a great way to keep fit and toned as they are so versatile and can be used in the gym or at home and can give you an all over body exercise workout.
Can a woman exercise after giving birth?
The first few weeks after giving birth can be physically exhausting for new mothers, as the physical strain of childbirth combined with unusual sleep patterns is usually caused by feeding and caring for the baby during the night. The American College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (ACOG) recommend women should avoid all physical stress for 2 weeks (i.e not carrying anything heavier than the baby) and not to resume full daily activities for a minimum of 6 weeks after delivery. Women who have delivered by Caesarean section are advised not to exercise for 12 weeks after birth to allow for proper healing. There are many benefits of getting back into exercise after giving birth such as improving posture and energy and beginning the weight loss process. Care should be taken with any new exercise programme started after giving birth as there is still susceptibility to injury. Complications such as hormones still present in the woman’s body, weak abdominal muscles and probably breastfeeding will all need to be carefully considered.
If you are planning a baby or have recently given birth, your doctor should give his or her final approval to any exercises you plan to do, working with you and your personal trainer to design a fitness regime that will suit you and your baby perfectly.
If you are interested in learning more about Pre & Post Natal exercise or you are a trainer and have pre or post natal clients, we run a 2 day course in London and Bournemouth explaining the key considerations for pre and post natal clients and designing individualised programmes.
Personal Fitness Courses London