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The facts about exercising during pregnancy and beyond

In the past pregnant women were expected to be sedentary during pregnancy, encouraged to refrain from exercise and frightened by unfounded myths. Thankfully, times have changed and pregnancy is now seen as a unique time in a woman’s life rather than an illness! Whilst exercise modification may be required there is no reason why a healthy mum-to-be can’t exercise. Studies have shown that there is no increase in the risk of miscarriage, congenital birth defects or premature labour due to exercising. Instead frequent exercisers tend to have healthier, less restrictive pregnancies.

Weight bearing aerobic exercise has many proven benefits during pregnancy. Women who were exercising prior to falling pregnant can continue with their previous programme with a few modifications. Even women who have not previously exercised will reap benefits if they progress slowly with a low intensity and low impact exercise programme. Pregnancy causes a number of changes to the body, making it important that you inform your trainer or gym staff that you are pregnant. A trainer qualified in specialist ante- and post-natal exercising can help you to exercise safely and effectively. You should inform your doctor or mid-wife that you are planning to continue exercising or begin to exercise for the first time during pregnancy.

Pregnancy is not a time to look for massive fitness gains or weight control, it’s important to remember that whilst you may want to minimise weight gain, it’s essential for a healthy pregnancy. There are many proven health benefits to exercising during pregnancy for you and your baby. Among the many benefits are:

  • Help your body cope with the stress caused by pregnancy
    • Strengthening pelvic floor and core
    • Correcting postural changes; pregnancy causes certain muscles to stretch and weaken whilst others become tighter
    • Strengthening your body in preparation for labour
    • Strengthening your upper body for caring for your baby
  • Helping to improve overall health as part of lifestyle modifications (i.e. reducing alcohol intake)
  • Helping to reduce some of the unwanted side effects of pregnancy such as leg cramps, swelling and back ache
  • Leaner babies with lower body fat
  • Assisting quick return to fitness and shape after giving birth.

It is important that you listen to your body during exercise and stop if it is becoming too much.  Here are some tips for keeping safe during pregnancy: keep hydrated, don’t overheat - wear lots of easily removable layers; if you are using weights ensure that you can complete 15-20 repetitions, if not reduce your weight; during your 2nd and 3rd trimester don’t exercise on your back for more than 30 seconds. During pregnancy a hormone called relaxin is released to allow your body to accommodate your growing baby, therefore your muscle and joints can be taken beyond their normal range of movement. It’s important not to over stretch and only go as far as your pre-pregnancy flexibility, holding for a maximum of 10 seconds.

As already mentioned, healthy women can continue to exercise throughout their pregnancy although there are a number of circumstances under which the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists forbid exercise during pregnancy. These include:

  • Pregnancy induced hypertension
  • Clinically significant heart disease
  • Restrictive lung disease
  • Incompetent cervix
  • Multiple gestation at risk of premature labour
  • Persistent 2nd or 3rd trimester bleeding
  • Placenta previa after 26 weeks gestation
  • Premature labour in current pregnancy
  • Ruptured membranes
  • History of three or more miscarriages

A pregnancy is a dynamic state and as your body changes certain modifications or changes of emphasis required in your exercising. During the 1st trimester morning sickness can make exercise the last thing that you feel like doing. However, it is the ideal time to start a low intensity exercise programme if you haven’t previously been doing so. Start with pelvic floor exercises - it is never too early! Perform them during a much repeated daily activity such as boiling the kettle or when sitting in the car at traffic lights. It is also an ideal time to activate and strengthen your core muscles. Exercising on your back for more than 30 seconds isn’t recommended after 12 weeks and this restricts some of the core exercises that can be performed.

In the 2nd trimester most mums-to-be (although not all) tend to find that morning sickness eases and feel more like exercising again. Again it isn’t too late to start a low intensity and low impact programme. You have done well if you have managed to continue exercising during your 1st trimester, but be careful not to over train if you find you suddenly feel a lot more energetic. During the 3rd trimester the bump is growing and having a greater effect on posture and balance so you should consider exercises to counteract this. During late pregnancy a switch to focusing on baby positioning and relaxation techniques may be more appropriate for you.

After the birth, re-start your pelvic floor exercises as soon as you can. This is as important for caesarean births as the pelvic floor muscles have had to bear the baby weight for nine months. After you have had your 6-week check (or 8-10 week for caesarean) you can start to exercise again, but remember to take it slowly and don’t feel guilty about exercise not being your first priority any more. Walking with the buggy is great exercise and can be a good way to meet other mums. The post-natal period has special considerations whilst exercising but there are many benefits including:

  • A quicker return to pre-pregnancy weight
  • A quicker improvement in abdominal tone – if your abdominal muscles split during pregnancy than adapted exercises can aid re-alignment
  • Tackling the postural and muscular effects of pregnancy.
  • An increase in metabolic rate
  • An improved body image.

I have completed specialist ante- and post-natal training and can use my knowledge and experience to motivate you to exercise safely and effectively throughout your pregnancy and to regain your fitness and shape after the big event. All this is in the privacy of your own home, so there is no extra childcare costs involved.

Nutrition advice can be used to compliment your training and help you feel more energised to tackle the demands of pregnancy and looking after a baby. If post-natal weight loss is your goal then a detailed nutritional analysis will find out about your current diet, lifestyle, food likes and dislikes. This will identify an individual weight loss plan, which will include sensible realistic advice on the foods to eat and the ones to avoid.

Massage can provide some much needed relaxation and deep tissue work can ease away any niggles caused by lifting and carrying your baby/

In summary exercise during early pregnancy can improve the growth of the baby and decrease unwanted side effects of pregnancy. Exercise later in pregnancy can help maintain fitness, limit non-essential weight gain and improve fitness for labour. Training in the postnatal period will speed up your return to your pre-pregnancy body.


If you require any more information, have any questions or would like to book a free consultation please don’t hesitate to contact me on 07712 776657 or email Small group training can spread the cost so why not join up with your antenatal class and train together.

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