By Adam Batchelor- Personal trainer
I know this advice may seem a little odd coming from a man, but
I’ve worked with hundreds of women through their pregnancy
health and fitness both ante and post natal and I can assure
you I have plenty of empathy for the incredible journey you
go through and the challenges faced along the way
The science tells us that exercise through pregnancy is beneficial but the practical application isn’t always as easy!
Firstly - no two pregnancies are ever the same, and as a result, never compare the changes in your mind and body with anyone else’s.
Energy, mood, motivation and desire to exercise will no doubt wildly fluctuate through pregnancy but you definitely do not need to and should not avoid exercise for nine months, unless you have specific
medical advice telling you not to do any. Pregnancy is certainly not an excuse to sit and eat for two, for 9 months!
For many women, a certain level of structured activity can improve you and your baby’s health while you’re pregnant. It can also mean that you have a shorter labour with fewer complications.
Regular exercise through pregnancy can do the following:
Help to reduce high blood pressure and reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia, which can affect low birth-weight and the need for a caesarean section.
Help you adjust to your changing body shape as your baby grows
Help you maintain a healthy weight gain throughout each trimester
Help to reduce the risk of diabetes, especially gestational diabetes.
Help you to improve mood and reduce feelings of anxiety by helping to regulate hormones
Help you to regulate and improve sleep patterns
Help to reduce the likelihood of developing varicose veins, swelling in joints such as ankles, feet and hands
Help to reduce back pain by keeping core muscles strong
Help to reduce the risk of developing SPD (Symphisis Pubis Disorder) which is a stiffness or uneven rotation of the pelvis
Improve your fitness levels.
Help to reduce the length of labour and associated complications
Help to improve post partum recovery and ability to regain core and pelvic strength and control quicker and more effectively
Swimming is a brilliant all-rounder and especially beneficial towards the later stages of pregnancy as it is non-load bearing. It’s one of the safest exercise forms you can do (once the pools are open again!) The buoyancy of the water can provide welcome relief by taking your weight off your feet and back and reduce possible sciatic pain from nerve route irritation. But make sure you avoid backstroke in the later stages!
Pilates or Yoga
Both are beneficial for the mind as well as the body and either activity will help strengthen key pregnancy muscles, such as the pelvis and small but vital muscles around the spine. Try and find a pregnancy specific class for maximum benefit
Get your daily dose of Vitamin D (this is especially important to help fight COVID) and connect with the great outdoors at the same time. Walking is great for improving blood circulation, keeping muscle tone in your legs and can really help alleviate stress.
You may have to use lighter weights and there are some positions you must avoid. But weight training may just be the most important but all too readily overlooked exercise form you should be doing through pregnancy! It ticks all the boxes of exercise benefits and can be done throughout all trimesters.
As your body is changing rapidly, it is important to be able to adapt your exercise around those changes. Weight training is the most adaptable and scalable exercise form there is!
Here are my top 5 tips for training safely with weights through pregnancy
If you weren’t actively weight training prior to pregnancy – don’t suddenly start deadlifting! Start slow, use slow and controlled movements to counter the effect of ‘relaxin’ a hormone that is released through pregnancy and can make joints feel ‘looser’
Adapt to your growing bump
Your routine needs to change through the trimesters as your bump grows. Your centre of gravity changes, which will make some exercises harder. Get some expert advice from someone like myself to help you through each stage.
Prioritise your pelvic floor
This is so important for maintaining good bladder function and strength, preventing prolapse and regaining full sexual function. Guess what? When you lift weights it forces your body to engage your core, which includes your pelvic floor. Include plenty of pelvic squeezes, with both long and short holds.
Choose seated exercises over lying ones
Lying supine (on your back) is to be avoided after 16 weeks as it can press on the Vena Cava – a major vein. Sitting on a swiss ball will still challenge your core whilst removing any risk of dizziness caused by obstructing blood flow associated with lying exercises. This also allows you to constantly modify your body posture to maximise comfort as your centre of gravity changes
Avoid over exertion
Now is not the time for smashing PB’s. It sounds obvious, but work within your limits and comfort zone – as much for your own peace of mind as anything else. Allow adequate recovery time between workouts. Listen to your body. This is your journey – nobody else’s.
Here’s an example of an Ante Natal workout filmed with the lovely Louise Thorpe - she successfully delivered her third baby (!) after putting up with me training her for nearly 30 weeks!