Throughout pregnancy your body is going to experience many shifts and changes as well as a hormonal roller coaster ride. Some of these changes can affect the way you exercise or how you feel when exercising. There are a few things to be aware of or keep in mind if you are keen to keep exercising thorough your pregnancy.
Simple guidelines to follow as a basic rule are:
Don’t start any exercise or activity that you haven’t done before.
Don’t stop if you have been regularly exercising.
Running is ok, though listen to how you feel and what your body is telling you.
Tirdness gets everyone! Rest is important!!!
The bigger more important things to be aware of are the things that may not appear too obvious and are essential to keep in mind if you are going to keep exercising regularly.
Hormones – Joint vulnerability
The first thing to become aware of are the hormone changes. Hormones like ‘Relaxin’ cause your ligaments and joints to soften and loosen in preparation for labour.
Postural misalignments or joint injures may therefore result from exercises that involve jerking actions and sudden movement, for example; tennis, dancing, netball. The risk of back injuries associated with weight training are also increased, so get some guidance of best how to support your body if you want to continue with weight training.
Shift of weight and changes to posture
During the later months of pregnancy as your belly gets bigger, your pelvis will begin to tilt forwards (anterior tilt) to allow for this growth and extra weight bearing. This will not only affect your balance and core stability, in many cases, it can place a strain on your lower back or sacral joint at the back of your hips and/or apply pressure to your front public bone (Symphysis pubis).
Mobility and Stability
It is good to stay mobile as possible, especially into the later stages of pregnancy when your body needs it most. Though be aware to limit the stretching of joints, especially if you are already hypermobile.
Focus on exercises that build strength and stability around your hips and back, so it can support you and the growth of your baby.
Tiredness is inevitable. If you aren’t hit by periods of tiredness in your first trimester, you one for the lucky ones! It is important to rest when you are feeling tired or low in energy.
What exercises to avoid?
The following activities should be avoided during pregnancy due to the high risk of falls, or direct impact and possible injury to your hips, spine, knees etc. Or even place negative impact on your baby:
- Step or other high impact classes
- Dance classes
- Anaerobic exercises such as sprinting
- Hot Yoga
- Contact sports/competitive team sports
- Downhill skiing/water sports or water slides
- Diving/scuba diving
Keep cardio exercise to 20mins
Aerobic ‘cardio’ exercise and the use of saunas, steam baths and hot hubs can all cause over heating.
There is evidence that over-heating during pregnancy may have an impact on the baby’s developing nervous system. Over-hearting does not mean simply getting a bit hot and bothered in the summer or enjoying a warm bath in the winter; it means getting so hot that your core temperature rises and the amniotic fluid in which your baby floats starts to heat up.
This is only likely to happen if you exercise for long periods without breaks and extra fluids, or if your body cannot lose heat by sweating effectively, as in a sauna or hot hub. It is advised to keep any cardio base exercise, whether jogging or cross training, to a 20min maximum to help you prevent overheating.
If you are getting breathless you must also slow down or stop, as when you are losing breath, your baby’s heart rate also gets faster, causing possible stress to the baby. In a healthy pregnancy your baby’s heart rate will quickly return to normal when you rest, so it doesn’t mean you cannot exercise, just monitor how you feel every step of the way.
You are most prone to breathlessness episodes in your First Trimester, due to an elevation in vascular volume, a fall in blood pressure but a lift in the heart rate. Then again from 30+ weeks, due to a decreased chest cavity and less ability or room for breathing muscles to move/function quite so effectively.
It is wise to reduce your cardio exercise significantly at these stages.
Is it ok to exercise in your first trimester?
Many people are told to hold off exercise in the first trimester. This is your first stage of change and you and your body many feel extremely tired. You may not even feel like exercising, which is perfectly normal and ok. Listen to your body and how you feel. It is important to give yourself a break and rest when you feel you most need it.
For those who want to keep exercising; exercising in your 1st and 2nd trimester has been correlated with feeling better in the 3rd trimester; a decrease in perceived exertion during labour and is also associated with fewer symptoms and discomforts of pregnancy (Sternfeld et al, 1995; Sternfeld, 1997).
That said, it is advised to lower the intensity, the length of aerobic exercise during you first Trimester, especially between 8-14weeks, for all the reasons mentioned above.
Need Help or Advise?
If you are keen to continue exercising during and after our pregnancy and would like a little more advise; I would be more than happy to help. I’ll assess the benefits and risks with you and help you decided on a safe and effective level of exercise that is right for you.