Absolutely! Feeling your physical and emotional best during your pregnancy is so important.
However, exercising during pregnancy will be different for each of us, and really will be dependent on your current level of fitness and the type of exercise undertaken prior to falling pregnant, as well as your individual pregnancy journey.
I had two completely different pregnancy journeys when I carried my two little bundles. With the first I had no energy, all day morning sickness (I’m still not sure why they call it morning sickness!) and by the 2nd trimester the only exercise I could do was clinical pilates with a physiotherapist and sessions in the pool.
But, for my second, well, I still had the morning sickness, but I managed to exercise most days, walk all the way through my pregnancy and enjoyed weekly antenatal yoga sessions, even doing one the day I gave birth!
So, now that YOU are pregnant, your main focus should be ensuring that you are healthy and strong, physically and psychologically, ready for the delivery of your precious cargo and for the busy and demanding, but wonderfully rewarding, early days of being a mum!
But, remember, you are now not just responsible for your own health and wellbeing. You have a little life you are carrying, who is depending on you to provide them with the best opportunity to enter this world as healthy as possible – no pressure hey!
So, what should be the focus of my exercise program now that I am pregnant?
Well, definitely not losing 10 kilos or running a marathon!
However, here are 5 key areas of focus to guide you:
1.Your deep abdominal muscles
Your abdominal muscles are important for supporting your spine and pelvis. During pregnancy they undergo significant changes, predominantly lengthening to accommodate your growing baby, which results in them not working as well after your have given birth.
Learning how to correctly and effectively brace you abdominal muscles either prior to falling pregnant, or as soon as possible once you are pregnant, will assist in the return of normal abdominal muscle function in the months following the arrival of your little one.
Be aware that once you have learnt to brace your abdominals, you may find you need to refocus on how well you are bracing your abdominals as you progress through your pregnancy. As your baby grows and moves position internally, your abdominals lengthen and there is increased demand on your lower abdominals as they assist in carrying your precious cargo. Therefore, tuning into your abdominal bracing on a frequent basis ensures that you continue to brace effectively and correctly.
And, not all abdominal exercises are suitable when you are pregnant. Your exercise program needs to ensure that you are training the deep abdominal muscles, to assist in stabilising your spine and pelvis, and not your outer abdominals, which can increase your risk of abdominal separation (diastasis rectus abdominus). Many of the exercises that train your outer abdominals also put additional strain on your pelvic floor and lower back, which are already vulnerable during pregnancy.
2. Your pelvic floor fitness
Your pelvic floor is an area of your body that you cannot see, however, these muscles work with the deep abdominal muscles, deep back muscles and your diaphragm to stabilise and support your spine.
The main function of the pelvic floor is to support the weight of the abdominal and pelvic organs, therefore playing an important role in bladder and bowel control, as well as sexual function. No-one wants bowel or bladder issues, and, though you may not feel like it immediately after having your little one, one day you might feel like “special cuddles” time again!
And, during pregnancy, the pelvic floor is also supporting the increasing weight of your growing baby, which in turn is a contributor to a decline of pelvic floor strength. Then, during labour, the pelvic floor muscles are placed under great stress resulting in stretching, and possible damage, depending on the type of delivery you experience.
So, taking the time to focus on learning to correctly lift and strengthen, as well as relax, your pelvic floor, is important for both your short-term and long-term health and fitness – we don’t want our pelvic floor to be too weak or too tight, we want it just right!
3. Your posture
During pregnancy, postural changes occur due to the increasing size of your baby, the increases in the pregnancy hormone relaxin and changes in the positioning of your pelvis, including relaxing of the pelvic joints and ligaments.
It is important that you include exercises in your program that strengthen and tone your muscles, which in turn will assist you in adjusting to your changing shape, and to the demands pregnancy places on your body. And, including exercises for mobility and flexibility will ensure that your body continues to cope with the every changing demands of your pregnant body.
If you experience back or pelvis pain during pregnancy, please seek advice from a health professional with experience in treating pregnancy and post-natal issues.
4. Low impact & low intensity
Low impact, low intensity exercise will assist in protecting your joints and pelvic ligaments, which are more vulnerable during pregnancy due to pregnancy hormones, altered posture and weight gain.
It is crucial that you do not place too much strain on your back, pelvis or pelvic floor during pregnancy, therefore low impact activities, such as walking, swimming or aqua classes, low impact exercise sessions or pregnancy specific exercise sessions are recommended.
The recommended intensity of an exercise session will be different for each expectant mum as every pregnancy and every woman is different. However, I recommend the intensity of your exercise sessions during pregnancy should result in you feeling energised, strong and invigorated, and not exhausted or sore.
5. Preparing yourself for labour
Not only is it important to strengthen your body during pregnancy ready for “delivery day”, it is also important that you prepare your mind.
Every labour is different, and you never quite know how it will go. I mean, I’ve been through two deliveries with my munchkins, and they couldn’t have been more different. However, being prepared psychologically, as well as physically, will definitely help.
So, whether you’ve sailed through your 1st trimester without any adverse pregnancy symptoms, or you are just coming out of the haze after months of all day morning sickness, if you are ready to begin your exercise program, do so taking the above areas of focus into consideration, and ensure you listen to your body – if something doesn’t feel right, stop and seek advice.
We hold pregnancy fitness sessions, our MumaBumps sessions,
on Monday mornings at 8.30am.
We’d love for you to join us!
Jody is a pregnancy and post-natal specialist, with tertiary qualifications in exercise science and registered as a Level 3 Exercise Professional with Fitness Australia.
Jody is also a mum of two small children, and therefore understands the demands and challenges of being a mum.
Jody is passionate about educating, energising and empowering pregnant and post-natal women through the provision of safe but effective exercise programs and fitness sessions.
Contact me today to see how I can help you with your fitness and health!