Yay you’re pregnant! Congratulations.
Amidst the excitement of gender reveals, cute belly pics and teeny tiny clothes shopping, you might be feeling a tad anxious. Some of the common questions running loops through an expecting mamma’s mind include:
“How much weight will I gain?”
“What exercise can I do. Actually, should I even bother exercising?”
“Is running bad for the baby?”
“What the hell is stomach separation and do I have it?”
Knowing what exercise you can and can’t do during pregnancy is tricky. Especially considering there are around a billion (actual number) of well-intentioned but unqualified women sharing their prenatal exercise regimes with the world.
That’s why we hit up pregnancy and postnatal fitness specialist, Kimmy Smith to help you feel more informed and confident as you embark on your journey of a fit and healthy pregnancy. Here, she shares the most common mistakes women and how to can avoid them:
1. They ignore their pelvic floor
Ahhh the pelvic floor. Out of sight and out of mind. Your pelvic floor is a combination of muscle, ligaments and fascia that sit in your pelvic bowl. Pregnancy can place a lot of stress on these muscles which can lead to weakness or incontinence.
During pregnancy there are 3 things you need to know about your pelvic floor:
- It acts like a hammock to support your bowel, bladder and uterus. It needs to be able to contract to hold these organs in place when you do things like cough, sneeze and laugh. It also needs to be able to stretch enough to birth a baby (if you are planning a vaginal delivery).
- Around 50 per cent of women don’t know how to contract their pelvic floor properly. One of the best things you can do during your pregnancy is to see a physio who specialises in women’s health. They will assess your pelvic floor and help you to learn to contract and release it correctly.
- Don't ignore it! Having a strong and functional pelvic floor will help to reduce the symptoms of urinary incontinence. It will also help you to get back to the type of exercise you love and will improve your sensation during sex. #winning!
2. They keep planking
During pregnancy, your stomach muscles need to be able to stretch to make space for your baby. But they also need to be strong enough to support your growing body. So, what to do?
Focus on exercises that will help to strengthen your deep core. Avoid exercises like crunches and V-Sit Ups that target your superficial abdominals. If any exercise causes the midline of your belly to pop or dome, then it is too strong for you and can increase the amount of separation you have down the midline of your belly.
Some of my fave exercises for pregnant ladies are:
- Opposite Arm & Leg Extensions on all fours.
- Supported Side Plank on Knees
- Supported Plank on Wall or Swiss Ball (yes you can still plank, but avoid doing it on your toes during the second and third trimesters and postnatally).
- Clams and Side Lying Glute Exercises
3. They give up strength training
This is so common. Especially if you are like me and suffer from terrible morning sickness during your first trimester. You give up all the exercise you love doing (hello, all day nausea). By the time you feel like your normal self, you are so out of shape that starting back again feels pointless.
As your belly grows, you will appreciate having strong legs, back and arms to be able to cope with the physical demands of pregnancy. Having a strong body will also help you during labour and will increase your rate of recovery during the vital postpartum period.
During pregnancy use lighter weights and make sure you can still breathe during every exercise. A great tip is to sit down for any exercise that requires you to lift weight above your head.
Some of my fave strength exercises for pregnant mummas include:
- Hip Raises
- Shoulder Press
- Push Ups in Quadruped
- Banded Row
4. They forget about the fourth trimester
Wait. What?!? There's a fourth trimester? Don't worry, your pregnancy isn't going to last 12 months. The fourth trimester is the twelve weeks after you give birth. It is a time for your body to heal and for you to restore your energy as you bond with your baby. The type of exercise you do during this time is just as important as what you do whilst you are pregnant, FYI. Still, there are things you can do during pregnancy to help recover from birth as fast as possible (and get back to your fave workouts ASAP):
- Beginning to include prenatal yoga and meditation into your workout routine. Yoga and meditation skills will help you so much during birth and the first few months of motherhood.
- Knowing how to contract and engage your pelvic floor properly. Side Note: You should start doing light pelvic floor exercises the day or two after you give birth. It will help your vagina to heal and create a strong foundation for postpartum recovery.
- Having a bank of safe prenatal exercises you can slowly introduce during the first twelve weeks of motherhood to help you to feel strong and toned. Because carrying a baby around all day is hard work!
5. They keep doing what they have always done
There is a myth out there that you shouldn’t start anything new during pregnancy, but you are safe to keep doing what you have always done. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Just because you CAN do chin-ups, burpees and backbends during your pregnancy doesn't mean that you should. Likewise, just because you have never done yoga or pilates before, doesn’t mean you can’t start.
During pregnancy you want to focus on these 4 things:
- Listen to your intuition. If something doesn’t feel right - then stop.
- Exercise to feel energised not exhausted. Your body is already working overtime growing a whole human! High 5 to you!
- Avoid overheating. No Bikram or Power Yoga please! And speaking of yoga, your body is releasing huge amounts of the hormone relaxin. So avoid over-stretching.
- Focus on strength and stability. Pilates inspired exercises and prenatal safe strength training will be your pregnancy BFF trust me!
For more pre and postnatal fitness tips, check out the Fit Mummy Project App.