Hope you are having a great week! I wanted to do a few posts focused on exercise during pregnancy since I am coming to the end of mine. Exercising during pregnancy is a beautiful thing. There are so many benefits to staying active while pregnant. However, I find that in talking to many pregnant clients, there is a lot of confusion as to what is safe and not safe during pregnancy. After getting certified as a Pre and Post-Natal Corrective Exercise Specialist, here are my top 5 tips for having a safe and healthy pregnancy.
- Do what feels right– This is always my first piece of advice to mamas to be. Listen to your body! Your intuition is a powerful thing. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. This is especially important in group classes when someone else is leading you through a workout. Be mindful of what feels right and if it doesn’t modify or ask the instructor for an alternative. Most group fitness instructors receive NO training on prenatal modifications
- Avoid Ab Work– Ok maybe the heading for this tip is a little strong because I actually think it is great to work your transverse abdominis (the muscle that wraps around you like a corset) this will help support your spine and give you a strong core. But I really recommend avoiding work to the Rectus Abdominis (the 6-pack muscle). That means things like crunches, the hundred in pilates, and pretty much any forward flexion exercises should be avoided. Why? The connective tissue holding your ab muscles together at the center (linea alba) is already being stretched. When you work your rectus abdominis, you put even more pressure on this connective tissue which can sometimes lead to a split (diastasis rectii) or a tear (hernia). I had both a diastasis and an umbilical hernia with my first pregnancy, and would definitely recommend avoiding.
- Breathe– Did you know the diapraghm, a primary breathing muscle, is also considered part of the core. Along with the transverse abdominis, the pelvic floor and the multifidus, the diapraghm is also a primary core muscle. Imbalances and weaknesses in the diaprghm, therefore, create imbalances and weaknesses throughout the body. But many people are shallow chest breathers and do not fully use their diapraghm. By belly breathing, you help strengthen the diapraghm, and encourage the other deep core muscles to fire. Not to mention that a deep connection to your breath and deep breathing techniques are a great way to cope during labor.
- Kegel, Kegel, Kegel– Much like the diapraghm, the pelvic floor is an important core muscle that is often overlooked. The pelvic floor plays an especially important role in supporting the weight of the baby during pregnancy and then assisting with the delivery of the baby. It is important that you have a strong pelvic floor, but also that you are able to relax it during labor to allow for the birth of your baby. For this reason, I suggest strengthening the pelvic floor with kegels, but also practicing being able to relax it. Try this– think of drawing your sits bones together and your pubic bone to your tail bone (this is a kegel), then practice releasing completely (some people like the image of opening like a flower).
- Don’t Worry So Much– Many pregnant moms get so worried about what they can and can’t do that they stop exercising completely out of fear that they will hurt their baby. The truth is, that our bodies were made to move during pregnancy. In Dr. James Clapp’s book “Exercising Through Your Pregnancy” he emphasizes all the benefits to exercising during pregnancy. To list a few: Shorter labors, less need for surgical intervention, less need for pain medication, smarter babies at 1 year post birth, reduced chance of preeclampsia, reduced chance of gestational diabetes. The benefits, in most circumstances far outweigh any minimal risk. Just make sure you follow tip #1!
What tips do you have for staying active during your pregnancy? What were your biggest concerns?