Dos & Don’ts of Prenatal Exercise
Prenatal exercise has been shown to have many benefits, including preventing excess weight gain, reducing backaches, lowering the risk for gestational diabetes, and easing the labor process. Continuing a fitness routine after you have your baby can be helpful in improving your mood, boosting your energy levels, and restoring your body and core muscles.
According to Meredith Therrien, a certified pre- and post-natal fitness specialist who teaches on the wellness platform OneFirelight, during the first trimester, there is not much that needs to change in your fitness routine. “The most important thing is to listen to your body when it needs rest,” says Therrien. “This period of time comes with a huge increase in blood volume, which can lead to you feeling out of breath more than usual. Take the time to replenish your body with plenty of water and give yourself grace if an exercise that usually feels easy feels a little more challenging.”
The second trimester will most likely bring more energy, but it is an important time to start to be more mindful of your workouts. Here are a few of Therrien’s tips to implement during this time and maintain throughout your pregnancy:
1. Avoid exercises that require you to lie on your back. In about one-third of pregnancies, lying on the back can cause supine hypotension syndrome. The weight of the fetus can cause blood vessel constriction, which can affect blood flow.
2. Avoid twisting from your abdominal wall. Otherwise, you can cause extra pressure on your abdominal wall, which is already facing more pressure than usual. Instead, twist from your shoulders and without compression.
3. Avoid crunches or sit-ups. These exercises cause a large amount of pressure on the outer abdominal wall and can contribute to diastasis recti, a separation of the abdominal wall through the midline. Instead, focus on exercises, such as planks and bird dogs, that activate the transverse abdominis (the inner core muscles).
4. Aerobic exercise is safe. The rule of thumb is to make sure you are able to talk throughout the exercise. Do not get to the point where you are so out of breath you are unable to say full sentences. This is a great time to work out with friends so you can carry on a conversation, for both fun and function.
5. Listen to your body. Drink plenty of water and take breaks as needed. Walking can also be a great form of exercise during this time.
After the baby is born, it is important to take time for your body to heal. Always get clearance from your doctor before returning to exercise, but in general, most can return to workouts after about six weeks. It’s crucial to take it slow in the beginning.
“The workouts you were doing at the end of your pregnancy should look like the workouts you start with post baby,” adds Therrien. “While there can be a lot of pressure to ‘lose the baby weight,’ it is most important that you do it properly. Focusing on rebuilding strength in your body and your core will allow your body to function properly. Start with shorter workouts and build up to more intense, longer workouts as your body feels ready.”
Fitness can be an excellent tool throughout your pregnancy journey and beyond. Listen to your body, take it at your pace, and always get clearance from your medical professional before starting any exercise routine.
OneFirelight is a wellness platform that offers yoga, cardio/kickboxing, sound meditation, and dance instruction. Most of the classes are filmed in nature and choreographed to the licensed music of global icon Bob Marley’s grandson Skip Marley, as well as other conscious musicians from the Blue Mountain Music Catalog. Find out more at onefirelight.com.