Do you want to have an active pregnancy? By that I mean walking, swimming, cycling, lifting weights. Non-contact activities. I know I do. Even more so my second pregnancy, because I feel like I understand now more than before why it is important.
Before I ever struggled with infertility I had the idea that I would have a super healthy and active pregnancy. I was going to eat all the right things and exercise, not to lose weight, but just to be healthy for me and baby. But after three years of infertility and recurrent miscarriage I was a little gun shy about the working out part of a healthy pregnancy. Also, the eating healthy part didn’t go so well, especially the first trimester.
I did finally get brave and started working out more towards the end of the second trimester. But it wasn’t like I was hoping for, and I found myself starting to worry as I got closer to my due date that my body wasn’t prepared for labor. Everything worked out just fine and our baby is healthy, but I have a better appreciation of the importance of an active pregnancy.
Why Should You Stay Active?
Listen, they call it labor for a reason! It is a marathon and a sprint all at the same time! Of course women have been doing it literally forever, and I would venture to guess that the majority don’t or didn’t workout. But if you can give yourself an advantage going in, why wouldn’t you?
According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) there is no increased risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, or early delivery with exercise. In fact, it can actually help with several of the common symptoms of pregnancy. Including back pain and constipation (a very common symptom of pregnancy). It also may decrease your risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and even c-sections! And of course the obvious that it helps improve your overall health, and strengthens your heart and blood vessels. Staying active during pregnancy helps with appropriate weight gain and can even help you shed those extra pounds after your little bundle arrives!
On top of all the physical benefits, there are plenty of mental and emotional benefits too. Who doesn’t need that, pregnant or not?
ACOG recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise a week. They no longer use heart rate as a measure of intensity. They say to aim for a moderate rate of perceived exertion, so think difficult but not all out breathless. You are still able speak in short sentences. Robin Arzon who does a lot of the prenatal workouts on Peloton says to aim for a 6-8 out of 10. With 1 being laying on the couch and 10 being the hardest workout you’ve ever done.
There are so many reasons to maintain an active pregnancy! But of course, you should always check with your doctor before starting any kind of workout regime.
My Plan For An Active Pregnancy
Like I said earlier, my first pregnancy was not nearly as active as I would like. So I made it a goal to be more active and more consistent this go round. Peloton has a great pre and postnatal program. I highly recommend it! You don’t need to have the bike or the tread to use it either. You can download their app and get a 30 day free trial, and then just search for “prenatal”. They have strength classes, cycling classes, yoga and meditation. I have primarily been doing the strength and cycling classes. (This isn’t sponsored, I just really love their programs).
I’ll start to incorporate walking more as the weather gets nicer too! We are finally having a good wet winter here in California, but I think we are all ready for the sun to come back out!
I’m due September 1st, which means I’ll be pregnant through some of hottest months, so I will also be swimming A LOT this summer!
Best Exercise Options
Walking– Probably the best option because it is most accessible. You don’t need any fancy equipment or gym membership, and it is a total body cardiovascular workout.
Cycling– (on a stationary bike) This is one of my favorites, but obviously requires a bike. It is easy on your joints and provides a great cardio workout, while also strengthening your legs and glutes. Regular biking isn’t recommended because of the risk of falling.
Swimming-Swimming is an excellent option when you’re pregnant because it is a low impact exercise that increases both your muscle tone and cardiovascular health. It also takes the pressure off of your body to support its full weight, which can really help with all of the pregnancy aches and pains. Swimming can also improve lower leg and ankle swelling.
Weight Training– My OB said as long as I stayed under 25 pounds it was okay to continue lifting weights. (My toddler is over 30 pounds, and I lift him, but as far as weights go I stay well below 25). I am no pro, but I do enjoy weight classes. And I think it is important for a few reasons. One, keeping your legs, booty and back strong while you’re pregnant can help as your tummy starts to grow and pull your body out of alignment. Two, it helps prepare you for when the little one comes and you are carrying them around for the next couple of years.
Yoga/Pilates/Barre– These are good options as long as you modify, especially when it comes to core work. There are a lot of prenatal specific options that would be best. But these classes include focused breathing and stretching, and can help reduce stress (a benefit of most exercise).
Things to Avoid
Contact Sports- anything where you could get hit in your stomach
Anything that includes the risk of falling such as skiing, water skiing, biking, horseback riding, or things of that nature.
Hot Yoga or Pilates- regular temperature will do just fine. The “hot” options put you at risk of overheating.
Activities at high elevations (unless you live there. As a nurse I worked on the Pediatric Critical Care Transport Team and often went with a NICU nurse for preterm deliveries. More than once we got called to a hospital in the Lake Tahoe area because someone went there for a baby moon and the hight elevation induced labor.
Keys to an Active Pregnancy
- Consistency over intensity
- Listen to your body, don’t over due
- Modify when you need
- HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE
- Always talk with your doctor before you start, and stop if anything feels off to you.
I hope you join me in having a more active pregnancy! What are some of your favorite ways to exercise? Let me know!
Thank you for being here!