You may be wondering if exercise is safe during pregnancy and what motions you can and cannot do if you were a workout addict before pregnancy or if you didn’t exercise at all. It can be tough to wade through prenatal exercise misinformation and locate evidence-based guidance with conflicting advice from family and friends and influencers pushing harmful prenatal exercise routines online.
That’s why the Good Housekeeping Institute Wellness Lab’s fitness specialists came down with P.volve’s Clinical Advisory Board to answer all of your questions about safe pregnancy workouts and the best pregnancy exercises by trimester.
What are the benefits of exercising during pregnancy?
Prenatal exercise has numerous benefits, ranging from relieving back discomfort to promoting healthy weight growth during pregnancy. “Studies have shown that women who exercise during pregnancy are more likely to have an uncomplicated vaginal delivery and a quicker recovery post-delivery,” says Dr. Suman Tewari, OBGYN, Clinical Advisory Board Member at Pavlova.
Regular exercise throughout pregnancy will help to strengthen your heart and blood vessels while also alleviating constipation (a common pregnant symptom). Exercise is particularly beneficial in the postpartum time since it can enhance mood and lower the chance of getting deep vein thrombosis.
Not only is movement beneficial to you, but it is also beneficial to your kid. Dr. Tewari explains that “women who exercised during pregnancy had a lower incidence of complications such as excessive gestational weight gain, gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, preeclampsia, preterm birth, lower birth weight, cesarean birth, and operative vaginal delivery.”
Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?
According to Dr. Tewari, exercising during pregnancy is both safe and highly encouraged for women having uncomplicated pregnancies. “Exercise is essential for optimal health – both of your mind and body – and living a vibrant life.”
“General guidelines advise that women who were engaged in vigorous physical activity before pregnancy can continue these activities during pregnancy and the postpartum period,” Dr. Tewari says, but don’t be surprised if you have to reduce the intensity of your workouts as your body adapts to the many changes. Dr. Tewari adds that exercising up to the end of your pregnancy is safe, but that you should talk with your obstetric provider, who may propose changes to your exercise plan.
Although it is preferable to exercise before becoming pregnant, many women are driven to create good habits and begin a workout plan during pregnancy, which is fantastic. “If you have a normal pregnancy, you can begin exercising at any time; begin with a mild intensity exercise routine and gradually increase the intensity,” Dr. Tewari advises, emphasizing the need to listen to your body and consult with your obstetric provider. “Whether pregnant or not, our bodies are designed to move every day.”
Dr. Tewari recommends that pregnant women refrain from exercising until they have been further assessed by their obstetrician. Symptoms such as vaginal bleeding, abdominal or pelvic pain, amniotic fluid leaks via the vagina, dizziness, headache, chest pain, calf pain or swelling, muscular weakness affecting balance, labor pains, and frequent contractions are among them.
How much exercise is recommended during pregnancy
“The current recommendation for pregnant and postpartum women is at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week,” notes Dr. Tewari. The 150 minutes can be divided into 30-minute workouts five days a week or smaller 10-minute workouts throughout the day. But don’t be disheartened if you can’t complete the whole 150 minutes every week; any activity and movement is preferable to none, especially during pregnancy.
Pregnancy Exercise Modifications
Some alterations will be required as your baby and belly expand, among the many other changes of pregnancy. The extra weight in the front of your body shifts your center of gravity, and breathing can become difficult when your need for oxygen lowers during pregnancy. “Each person and pregnancy are different, so the rule of thumb is to always listen to your body and let it be the guide,” says Antonietta Vicario, Integrative Health Coach and VP of Talent and Training at P.volve. Here are some important activity changes to consider as your pregnancy progresses:
- Avoid jerky and bouncy movements: Hormones produced during pregnancy relax the ligaments that support your joints, increasing your risk of damage. Throughout your pregnancy, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends avoiding jerky, bouncy, and high-impact motions. Instead, modifying for low-impact exercises is a terrific alternative.
- Avoid exercising in high-heat environments: The American College of Obstetricians (ACOG) encourages pregnant women to avoid exercising in high heat and humidity to protect against heat stress, especially during the first trimester. It’s also critical to stay hydrated throughout the exercise and the day and to exercise in a temperature-controlled environment if feasible. Hot yoga courses and similar activities should be avoided.
- Avoid doing activities on your back: Exercising on your back (also known as the supine posture) puts strain on a major vein that returns blood to the heart from your expanding uterus. If you’re doing anything on your back, Vicario recommends propping yourself up with cushions or using a pregnant wedge.
- Exercises that force you to lie on your stomach, as well as uncontrolled twisting actions of the torso, should also be avoided. Exercises in the side-lying posture, such as side-lying lower body pilates work and side-lying savasana, can be tried. “Side-lying also helps with comfort because it keeps blood flowing toward the baby,” Vicario adds.
- forgo abdominal crunches: Although core workouts such as crunches should be avoided to allow for flexibility in the rectus abdominis, the outermost layer of the abdominal wall, Vicario explains that there is no need to fully forgo core training during pregnancy. “Gentle abdominal work is important, and it can help keep the baby from weighing down on the bladder!”
- Avoid contact sports: Sports that put you in danger of being hit in the abdomen, such as basketball, soccer, boxing, and ice hockey, should be avoided while pregnant.
What is the pelvic floor for Best Pregnancy Exercises by Trimester?
You’ve probably heard about how important pelvic floor health is during and after pregnancy. “The pelvic floor is a collection of skeletal muscles located at the base of the pelvis that form a bowl-shaped structure that connects our sit bones, tailbone, and pubic bone.” “In other words, it covers the entire bottom of our pelvis,” adds Dr.
Amy Hoover, Doctor of Physical Therapy and P.volve Clinical Advisory Board Member. Dr. Hoover also discusses how the pelvic floor works with the diaphragm, abdomen, and back muscles to assist in governing the pressure system in the body as you move and operate throughout the day.
The pelvic floor must be strengthened during pregnancy since the requirement for core stability increases as your baby grows and your joints become slightly flexible. According to Dr. Hoover, “the mechanics of how we move change rapidly during pregnancy due to increased weight and stretching of the abdominal wall, as well as changes in our center of gravity.”
“Strengthening the pelvic floor during pregnancy may also help reduce the risk of urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse during and after pregnancy.” Because the pelvic floor muscles are stretched to several times their resting length during vaginal delivery, the more strength you may develop throughout pregnancy means a faster recovery after birth.