Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy
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Oh my goodness, the big debate! Chances are if you were into fitness before becoming pregnant you are probably much like me and told yourself you are going to do everything you did before and be that bad ass pregnant chick that does all the things! Is that you?!
Well even if it’s not and your here wondering what exactly is safe exercises for pregnancy, what exercises you SHOULD be doing and what if I am not active but my doctor me I should be? Well look no further Momma because I am going to walk you through this and what your key points to staying active should be!
As a mother of four children under the age of four I can tell you that exercise will be your saving grace during pregnancy; if done properly! I learned A LOT on my journey of 4 back to back pregnancies and it is embarrassing to admit my last pregnancy was my healthiest and most fit of all. WHY you ask?! Because I finally learned the art of SLOWING DOWN and focusing on building strength properly in the areas that matter most. So grab a cup of tea momma and lets get to it!
Does staying active during pregnancy help with labor?
Hands down YES, staying active will help with labor.
Not only does it seem logical, it is also backed up by research! When one continues to exercise during pregnancy there was a marked decrease in the need for medical interventions during labor and delivery.
Here are few stats:
- 35% decrease in the need for pain medication
- 75% decrease in maternal exhaustion
- 50% decrease in induce or stimulate labor with pitocin
- 50% decrease in the need to intervene because of abnormal heart rate
- 55% decrease in the need for episiotomy
- 75% decrease in the need for operative intervention (forceps or cesarean section)
Overall women who continued to exercise had a 30% increase in uncomplicated, spontaneous delivery and the duration of active labor was much shorter. (Clapp 97). Overall I think this provides you with a sense that yes, maintaining exercise during pregnancy will benefit you and your baby during labor and delivery. When you have less need for intervention during birth, you will recover faster also.
How can I stay active during pregnancy?
By having a plan, and doing things you enjoy!
Staying active during pregnancy is a mindset, a choice. It is not always easy. There are days you will just want to rest and that is OK! It is important to remember that we are staying active for the purpose of staying healthy, and keeping baby healthy. We will not be breaking any PR’s, gaining an insane amount of muscle or losing weight during this time. We are literally training ourselves for the labor, delivery and recovery period that comes with having a baby. During pregnancy you should focus on 4 things:
- Strengthening deep core muscles & pelvic floor
In order to do this properly and not injure yourself it is important to follow a plan that is designed to support your changing body during pregnancy. Once you understand that basics of this you can adapt yother fitness classes routines to best suit your body.
Is it OK to start working out when pregnant?
YES! As long as you talk to your doctor and do not have any complications.
Many times women want to start being active when they find they are pregnant, but have no idea where to start; therefore they just don’t do it. If you have the OK from the doctor, see the question answered above and find a plan! It is important to stay active during pregnancy for a few reasons:
- More energy
- Less aches & pains
- Better sleep
- Shorter labor and delivery times
- Less chance of postpartum depression
- Less weight gain
- Healthier baby–studies state babies born to women who stay active during pregnancy have more brain activity (Clapp)
Unless you have an underlying condition working out, staying active during pregnancy is only going to benefit you. Remembering to listen to your body, keeping it low impact (no combat sports, downhill skiing, jumping and be cautious if you are runner) Staying hydrated, having a well rounded whole foods diet, and staying away from crazy fads diet will have you feeling your very best during pregnancy! Another big questions women have who become pregnant is, is can I do abdominal exercises while pregnant?! Lets go into detail with that one below.
Is it OK to do abdominal exercises while pregnant?
If you are thinking traditional sit ups, no you should not do them, BUT there is a BETTER way to strengthen your core during pregnancy and I’m going to share that with you!
In order to train your core unit properly you need to learn how to engage the deepest of your core muscles called your Transverse Abdominis, or TVA for short. The other part of your core believe it or not is your pelvic floor. The core unit is comprised of your abdominal muscles, specifically your transverse abdominis, your pelvic floor and your diaphragm. It is essential that your pelvic floor and transverse abdominis work in unison.
During pregnancy your baby pushes down on your pelvic floor. Any high impact sport/running/jumping is going to put added pressure on this (see visual below) Not only do you need to strengthen this so it will stay strong and reduce incontinence(leaking urine) over time but you need to learn how to relax it when baby is ready to come out.
If you are experiencing low back pain, joint pain, incontinence, even a heaviness in your pelvic region…PLEASE make an appointment to go see a womens physical therapist She will help you determine if you have any degree of prolapse or separation in the abdomen, commonly known as Diastasis Recti. Everyone has some form of separation and most heal on their own. Yet 63% of women are suffering from other imbalances and joint pain caused by a larger degree of separation and have no idea how to heal it.
Your Transverse Abdominus wraps around your core like a corset. It is important to strengthen his muscle because it will reduce any degree of separation in your mid-section but also support you when it comes time to push the baby out. Your TVA and your pelvic floor work together if you train them properly. If you do not work them you could end up with prolapse, a wider diastasis (splitting of the abdomen), low back pain and complications during labor.
Ironically enough knowing how to properly BREATHE is extremely key in supporting all the issues mentioned above. I know for one thing, when I first heard this I had never in my life even thought about my breathing (except for breathes in and out when running 20+ miles) but I cannot tell you the difference it will make for you. It will calm you, detoxify you and most importantly allow your body to heal. I have a few videos over on my youtube where I go over how to do this–it’s much easier to explain in talking vs written form but I promise I’ll get to that too!
Are planks safe during pregnancy?
Yes and No. Not the answer you were looking for?! I know I know. I wanted to added this here though because this is one of the most asked questions newly pregnant mothers ask me. If you are not sure how to connect to your core unit (mentioned in question above) than I would just stay away from planking completely. If you are not new to working your core unit properly, and can control your intra-abdominal pressure while planking then by all means if that exercise gives you joy than do it! Exercise Do’s and Don’ts post can be found here. A few things to remember when exercising during pregnancy 1. Does it feel OK? 2. Can I maintain my intra-abdominal pressure when doing this? 3. Is it making me strong for labor, or is it something that will make me look ‘cool’.
How can I strengthen my pelvic floor during pregnancy?
By breathing properly, understanding how to use your core unit and learning how to engage and relax the proper muscle.
Strengthening your pelvic floor goes much more beyond the basic kegel. Your mother, aunts, besties, grandmothers may have told you the only way to keep things toned down south when you have a baby and after are to do your kegels! But ladies…there is SO MUCH MORE TO IT THAN THAT! If you perform kegels without breathing properly you are doing more harm than good so let’s stop that OK?! When you understand HOW to engage your core unit properly; you inhale, expand rib-cage & release, on the exhale you pretend your picking up a blueberry with your vagina (the kegel) tighten up your TVA, wrapping your core like a corset, and inhale and release again. This is a breathing exercise to strengthen your pelvic floor and core unit. Regular breathing on the other hand is done through your diaphragm and there is no pelvic floor tightening. The issue with many women today, specifically athletes is that we CLENCH. And this causes all those issues!
Be Sure to snag your SAFE PREGNANCY EXERCISE GUIDE you can take with you for your workouts!
Along with understanding how to strengthen your pelvic floor many women ask me “Can I run when pregnant?!”
How long can you run when pregnant?
There is no set number on this but I can provide my recommendation. Studies all show something a bit different so it really is going to go by how you FEEL.
Coming from experience I’ll share that I was an avid distance runner when I became pregnant with my first. I was coming off of a year of running 3 full marathons and bunch of half-marathons and shorter races mixed in between. Running as my hobby and since I had no little humans, it was just by go too. When I found out I was pregnant I told myself I’m going to run until I pop this kid out! My doctor said if it feels good do it.
Ladies he NEVER told me about my core unit, my pelvic floor or anything. I felt good until probably 25 weeks, then things felt pretty shitty. But I refused to stop; what else would I do?! I stopped at 35 weeks, and guess what?! After baby I was in serious pain when I started to run.
My personal recommendation is to stop around 20/25 weeks depending on how you feel. But after that your center of gravity has changed a lot, and it is so much pressure on your pelvic floor it is not worth it to push yourself through. It is better to focus on other forms of cardio such as swimming, the elliptical, biking or honestly just walking and adding in strength training. You can check out my Prenatal Program here; specifically designed for the changing pregnant body!
Should I stay active during pregnancy?
YES! When you have a proper plan it is doable and extremely beneficial!
Focusing on proper strength training during pregnancy, strengthening your core unit and keeping things low impact is going to make a world of difference for your body the last few months of pregnancy and your recovery after baby. It is important to remember to find a PLAN that is designed for your growing and changing body (Such as my prenatal program! I designed this with the busy momma, athlete in mind!) Pregnancy is a SEASON. Strengthening your core unit, endurance and strength is vital during this time. It is important to remember this, it is HARD! But your body will feel strong, capable and prepared when it comes time to deliver baby AND your recovery period will go that much easier for you!
Check out my FREE Core Connections course here so you can keep a strong core during pregnancy.