WORKING OUT DURING PREGNANCY
I’m entering my sixth month of pregnancy and it seems like the right time to start talking about my experience as a pregnant woman a little more frequently on the blog. Today, we are going to discuss working out during pregnancy. A subject that divides a lot of people, unfortunately…
A small disclaimer before starting… I am not a health professional. I rely on my personal experience and the information I could gather on the subject. In this post, I will talk about a sensitive topic that is pregnancy. A chapter during which women are not all equal. I realize that all cases are different, and I encourage you to always consult your doctor before starting a physical activity, especially if you are pregnant. What is good for me is not necessarily good for you, and vice versa.
My personal experience
I’ll start with my personal experience : if you read my blog, you already know I’m a pretty sporty person, as my Wellness and Workout section can confirm. When I got pregnant, I had just taken a new gym membership to try and build more muscles… Bad timing.
During the first month of my pregnancy, still unaware of the fact that I was pregnant, I continued my training as usual, without any problem : strength training sessions of about 1 hour in the gym, followed by small cardio sessions (bike or treadmill). At home, I completed my program with videos of Pilates or cardio sessions. Then, I got confirmation that I was expecting (as I suspected) so I slowed down with the intense cardio and stopped any abdominal exercise. And then during the next two months, I was too sick to get out of bed, so you can imagine that working out was not my priority.
As soon as I started getting better, I returned to a moderate activity, at home, using workout videos for pregnant women. I also do light strength training sessions and Pilates. So far, I feel good, I haven’t got the famous back pain or leg cramps that pregnant women often talk about yet. Working out helps me feel lighter after the sessions.
The only downside is the soreness : progesterone, a hormone which (among other things) relaxes the muscles and allows the ligaments to soften to make room for the baby, also causes significant muscle loss. Some exercises that I used to do fingers in the nose are now leaving me very sore the next day… But pregnant or not, when you work out, you get used to having stiff muscles after a session and you just deal with it !
Which activities do you need to stop or slow down ?
Obviously, contact sports (boxing, wrestling, judo…) must be stopped because they can be dangerous for the baby if you receive a punch in the belly. Activities during which falling is frequent (skiing, horse riding…) are also set aside for now. And scuba diving is absolutely prohibited throughout pregnancy, because of bad gas exchange that takes place between the mother and her fetus.
Exercises that target the abs area are not recommended : during pregnancy, your abs deviate to the sides to make room for your growing belly, and soliciting them too much could hurt you.
Activities with a lot of impacts on the ground should generally be stopped : running, jumping rope… Confirmed runners will probably be able to pursue a light training at the beginning, but as the belly grows it seems to get complicated… Especially considering the next point.
Cardio activities should be seriously slowed down, because you must know that when you’re breathless, the baby lacks oxygen too. Unlike fat or water reserves, you do not have oxygen reserves in which the baby could draw… You can continue to do a cardio activity if you feel like it, but only if you manage to talk out loud during your workout.
What are the best activities for pregnant women ?
The best activities for pregnant women are walking (cardio with minimal shortness of breath) and swimming ! Frankly, if you have a pool or sea available, go swim some laps as this may do a lot of good to your back and your whole body at the same time. Swimming will make all of your muscles work deeply and smoothly, it’s relaxing and it is absolutely safe for your joints since you’re floating ! I’m looking forward to the warmer temperatures in Malta, so I can go swimming. In a month, it should be good…
Personally, I also love doing Pilates exercises to strengthen my muscles smoothly. If your health allows it, you can continue the usual exercises (I’m a big fan of Cassey Ho’s videos), but courses for pregnant women are also available online or in clubs.
I also continue a light weight training with small dumbbells of three kilos, especially for my arms. This is absolutely safe for the baby, and I think I will congratulate myself for having kept this training once I will have my own small dumbbell of three kilos, screaming and wriggling all day...
I also practice muscle strengthening exercises for the legs and butt. This is excellent for venous return, and it helped me contain a small beginning of sciatica. I bought Lucile Woodward’s book, En Forme Pendant et Après la Grossesse, in e-book version. It hardly cost me anything and it is full of tips and easy exercises to do, but I believe it’s only available in french.
If I can give you one piece of advice, listen to yourself : if an exercise hurts you, if you do not feel comfortable, do not insist. Your body knows how to tell you when you exceed the limits, so listen to it.
The benefits of working out during pregnancy
The benefits of working out during pregnancy are well established… When the mother’s health permits it, a regular physical activity is very beneficial to her and to her baby. It can help pregnant women limit the little issues of pregnancy : backache, cramps, poor circulation, and of course… kilos in excess ! Working out can help maintain a healthy weight gain and limit the occurrence of gestational diabetes. A balanced diet is also essential for this, but that is another debate…
Working out during pregnancy can also be a moment of relaxation during which the mother will be able to “commune” with this changing body and her baby. Working out relaxes, it’s proven : perhaps this is a good idea to practice a little during this period that can be stressful. Especially if it can help you fight your insomnia and get a more restful sleep…
Last but not least, working out is also used as preparation for childbirth. I already know that I will not have epidural during mine (my hospital does not propose it) and it is therefore necessary that I prepare myself physically for what awaits me. I think that arriving on the D-day in good shape and with a small muscular base can never hurt… I think it is “easier” (note the quotes) to manage hours of contractions when you spent the previous month maintaining a healthy activity, rather than if you spent them slumped on the couch eating cakes… No judgment for mothers who are on bed rest, who have different health issues, who are just exhausted or who simply do not want to workout. I’m just sharing my personal opinion. In any case, if your pregnancy goes smoothly and your doctor gives you the green light, I can only encourage you to maintain a physical activity, even a very light one. Whether you have planned an epidural or not, things do not always go the way we want (it may not work, or you might arrive too late at the hospital) and I think it is better to be “too” prepared… than not enough.
A few workout videos for pregnant women
During my search for prenatal videos, I found some gems that I wanted to share with you. The exercises are very soft, you can do them even if you’re not usually very sporty !
➜ 20 minutes of light prenatal cardio
➜ 20 minutes of prenatal Pilates
➜ 10 minutes arm workout
➜ 10 minutes legs and butt workout
➜ one hour prenatal workout
➜ fitness session for the 4th month of pregnancy (in french)
➜ fitness session for the 5th month of pregnancy (in french)
➜ prenatal yoga for the 4th month of pregnancy (in french)
➜ prenatal yoga for the 5th month of pregnancy (in french)