EXERCISING SAFELY DURING AND AFTER PREGNANCY
TOP TIPS from pre and post-natal specialist personal trainer and mum of 3, Juliette Green
First of all the majority of physical activity/exercise/sport in pregnancy is completely safe (with some adaptations in each trimester) and should be encouraged. One caveat - pregnancy is NOT the time to take up a new sport!
Throughout pregnancy, it is very important to listen to your body. Don't do an exercise if it doesn't feel right and rest when you need to.
Throughout all the trimesters it is important to stay well hydrated, eat well (before and after exercise) and keep your heart rate to a suitable level. This level will be different for each person so there is no set number to stay under (unless instructed by your midwife). A good guide is to still be able to hold a conversation whilst exercising.
Throughout your pregnancy you will have relaxin in your body which enables your joints to be more flexible to accommodate the growing baby and for birth. Due to this you need to ensure good form for all exercises to prevent injury. If you have been diagnosed with Symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), high blood pressure, gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia please gain advice from your midwife/consultant in regards to exercise.
If at ANY point during your pregnancy you feel dizzy often, have ANY spotting or long lasting headaches you MUST contact your midwife. If any of these occur during exercise please STOP straight away.
You may notice you get out of breath quite quickly, feel a bit dizzy/faint, some nausea etc. Any exercise should take this into account. Ensure you have eaten well, have snacks with you and hydrate. If you are not suffering with any of the above then all exercise you did before becoming pregnant should be ok.
Running is ok, providing you feel well. Take regular breaks and take water with you.
Resistance/strength work is all fine. Just be mindful of any dizzy feelings and ensure someone is spotting you for any overhead work.
If you attend any exercise classes, it is important that the instructor knows you are pregnant. If you suffer with any bleeding then stop all exercise and consult your doctor.
Ensure you wear a good sports bra to make sure your breasts are well supported as they grow. This may result in buying a few different sizes as you grow, but supporting all the stretching ligaments and connective tissues is very important.
If active exercise does not feel right, this may be a good time to try yoga/pilates. There are lots of pregnancy classes around.
If you suffered with morning (all day!) sickness, this may be easing off now. This trimester tends to bring energy boosts!
As before, the majority of exercise/sport is ok. However, it is best to stay away from cycling (unless it's on a static bike), skiing or other sports which may cause you to lose balance. As baby grows your centre of gravity will change.
Running is still ok as long as you feel fine and your joints are coping ok. You will now need to start to slow your pace a bit and ensure you stay hydrated. Stick to flat running as again your centre of gravity changes will impact your balance. A good sports bra and good supportive trainers and essential.
If you are still doing resistance/strength exercises do think about lowering the weights as you progress during this trimester, especially for exercises above your head. Leg work is of great benefit during pregnancy to help carry the weight of the baby, help prevent/reduce puffy legs and facilitate a more active labour.
After week 20 I would advise not to do any exercise lying flat on your back. Use a cushion/steps on an exercise bench to raise your torso or carry out exercises in a sitting position. This is also the time to stop any abdominal work such as crunches/sit ups/plank etc. This may help to prevent additional ab separation.
Your body and bump will be starting to feel quite heavy and you will become tired very quickly. Make sure you have ample snacks and water available whilst exercising.
Cardio should be kept low impact - avoid jumping, hopping, skipping and bouncing. Walking and swimming are great exercises at this stage. Again remember to only exercise to a level where you can still hold a conversation.
Running at a hugely modified level is ok if you feel well and the joints are holding up. You will need to reduce your distances and duration significantly.
Pre-natal yoga and pilates are great too, especially to help maintain a strong core.
Body weight and resistance band strength leg work are safe,. Try side lying leg exercises to help stabilise muscles and other areas including the glutes, outer hips, inner thighs and hamstrings. Very light weights for arm exercises such as bicep curls, lateral raises and triceps are very safe. These will help build up strength to carry baby! No weights above your head though.
It is VERY important you have had your check-up with your health care professional before embarking on any exercise after having your baby. They will ensure any stitches are healing well, check for hip/pelvic pain and for any ab separation. Prior to this, walking is an excellent way to start moving your body, get fresh air and feel better. Providing your check up goes well, you are good to start post-natal specific exercise. At any class, ensure the instructor knows you have recently had a baby and inform them of any issues with pregnancy/labour post-natal recovery so they can adapt the exercises accordingly.
Ensure the instructor has the relevant qualification to teach post-natal exercise. A Personal Training course DOES NOT qualify them for pre and post-natal exercise training. This is VERY important. Incorrect exercise at this stage can leave lasting damage. You will still have the relaxin in your body so good form is still essential to avoid injury. This hormone will be present all the while you are breast feeding too.
Low impact cardio is safe but do avoid jumping.hopping exercises for the first few months, or until you feel your pelvic floor is strong enough.
Running is very individual and not really recommend until you have had adequate time to allow the pelvic floor to become strong. Walking is a very alternative until then.
Resistance/strength work is very beneficial, but as with the third trimester stick with body weight exercises and very light weights for the arms.
As in pregnancy, a good supportive sports bra is essential and you may need different sizes. Brooks Juno bra is great as the straps are adjustable and easy to un-do if you need to feed your baby.
NO ab work until you are sure your abs have returned or you have less than 1/2 finger width separation. I would not recommend ab work until 9-12 months post-natal, unless a women health Physio has confirmed they have minimal separation. This is extremely IMPORTANT to prevent issues later on in life. Simple core exercises are fine such as side lying plank, lying toe taps and hip bridges. Buggyworkout classes are ideal way to kick start your exercise routine. All exercises can be tailored to each person, children of all ages are welcome. It’s also a lovely safe environment to meet other like-minded mums at similar life-stages.
ABOUT JULIETTE GREEN
My name is Juliette and I am a mum of 3. After spending 19 years in marketing roles in the corporate world I made the change to self-employment after the birth of my youngest. I have been an avid sports person since a young age - representing my school in athletics, tennis, tchoukball and hockey. I was also part of Team Solent running club. Alongside this I danced from the age of 3 and still do now! Since having children exercise took a bit of a back seat, but this is when I took up running due to it’s flexibility to fit around the family. I have run 2 marathons, many half marathons and 10kms. My favourite distance in half marathon. I am a pre and post-natal specialist personal trainer, a kettlebells, circuits and Boxercise instructor and Run Leader. I run 7 classes a week and have many personal training clients. I am keen to encourage movement and exercise so have tried to ensure cost, time and childcare are not barriers. Children of all ages are welcome at my Buggyworkout and bootcamp classes.
A personal note... Juliette's awesome Buggy Workout UK classes and incredibly supportive and friendly community of mums (and dads) are the perfect way to get back into exercise postnatally. I can't think of a better bunch of people to spend my maternity leave with, whilst getting a great workout (adapted according to where you are postnatally)! On tougher days with my second baby, I always felt cheered up attending her classes - Come rain or shine Juliette has got a fab workout in store, and she also knows how to soothe the more demanding babies! Juliette is incredibly knowledgable on all things pre- and postnatal. I would wholeheartedly recommend her to any mums-to-be or new mums looking for group classes or personal training sessions.