Finding out you are pregnant is life changing and brings so many conflicting and intense emotions and feelings. For the first 12 weeks the body is flooded with hormones and you may be feel physically sick, fatigued and anxious. Things start to settle by about week 13, bringing renewed energy and positivity.
For many people, fitness is the last thing on their mind when they become pregnant, and it’s always important to listen to your body and mood. However, the benefits of moderate exercise throughout pregnancy are extolled by health professionals with the NHS stating that “The more active and fit you are during pregnancy, the easier it will be for you to adapt to your changing shape and weight gain. It will also help you to cope with labour and get back into shape after the birth” . They also state that there is evidence that women who exercise may have less problems in later pregnancy and labour.
Whether you are new to exercise or keen to keep up your current programme, here are Mamawell’s top tips for keeping fit during pregnancy:
1. The first 12 weeks - be careful
This first trimester is where the highest risk of miscarriage occurs, so it is really important to be mindful of the intensity of exercise you are undertaking. Many people choose to take it a little easy at the beginning, to ensure they are happy and not feeling anxious about their exercise choices. If you currently don’t do any exercise, as this point maybe just keep active by walking regularly and aim to start more formal fitness work in the second trimester. If you are already active, and feel you need to reduce the intensity, then listen to your body here. Take a break from the cardio classes and choose something a little more relaxing.
2. Don’t start something new
Throughout pregnancy it is advised to exercise in a way in which you are familiar, and adjust the intensity as needed. If you love spinning, you can totally still do this - but you will adapt how you sit on the bike as your abdomen grows, and reduce your resistance when you are fatigued. If you have never used kettlebells, pregnancy is not the time to start throwing them around.
The growing abdomen changes your centre of gravity and the hormone relaxin give your muscles more elasticity, but possibly more instability - so at this point your body is not necessarily performing in the same way as it was pre-pregnancy. The best advice is stick with a type of exercise you know and enjoy.
3. Find a specialist pregnancy class
There are some really great antenatal yoga and Pilates classes that are especially formulated to address the changes in your body and work to prepare the muscles for childbirth. These classes are an exception to the rule of not trying anything new as they are a perfect introduction to the Yoga/Pilates technique in a way that is safe and beneficial for the pregnant body. A class will keep you motivated, and you’ll meet like-minded women to support you.
4. What NOT to do
It is best to consult with a antenatal fitness specialist before embarking on a pregnancy fitness regime, as our body’s needs and fitness levels are all different. However, these are a few of the things that all should be aware of:
- Holding your breath - It is so important that the baby receives oxygen, and this comes directly from your breathing. So no heavy lifting with straining and holding breath and no static moves like planks where it is hard to breathe deeply.
- Lying on your back - After the first trimester, the growing baby means that the risk of supine hypotensive syndrome is greater. This is where the growing uterus presses on the inferior vena cava which is responsible for carrying blood back to the heart. It is important not to restrict blood flow when pregnant so avoid lying on your back if possible after week 12.
- Body temperature - We want to avoid raising the temperature of the fetus as this can cause central nervous system disorders so avoid getting overheated, drink water and take breaks to cool the body down, and avoid saunas and steam rooms.
In conclusion, if you think of your pregnancy and birth as an endurance race, where on the finish line you get the most amazing first prize, you can keep your eye on the target! The hard work is just beginning when the baby is born, and staying fit and healthy during your pregnancy will help you stay strong for yourself and your little one.
For further advice please contact [email protected]
MAMAWELL was founded by Rosie Stockley in 2017 shortly after the birth of her daughter Charlotte. A fitness professional with a dance background, Rosie’s high energy post-natal bootcamps, Ballet classes and private sessions in SW London will motivate and inspire. A pre and post-natal exercise specialist who understands firsthand the changes that the body goes through in childbirth, Rosie will guide you towards your fitness goals with patience, expertise and passion.
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