Let's be real; being pregnant is a lot to deal with. Over nine months, women experience immense physical changes (hello baby growing inside of you), emotional ups and downs, the excitement and fear of trying to learn everything there is to know about raising a child, all while still carrying on your day job and life as normally as possible.
All things considered, it is understandable why me-time and exercise can quickly fall to the wayside. Fluctuating hormones, fatigue and nausea are suddenly added to your everyday routine, and anxiety around the fact that you're marinating a tiny human can easily overwhelm expecting mums looking to exercise.
Here's the thing though, if you can't make me-time and movement a priority now, you are fostering a mindset that may continue for the next 18 years (or until your little cherub decides to fly the nest). Finding exercise that lights you up inside and makes you feel good about your body is key to a happy and healthy pregnancy (and life, for that matter). Movement is good for the soul, and countless studies have shown that exercise is good for you and your soon to be little bundle of joy.
At Aleenta, we are passionate about empowering women to move their bodies in a way that works for them during the many stages of life. Whether you're trying to understand your menstrual cycle, expecting a baby or moving through menopause, our workouts are curated to help women love and appreciate their body a little more.
If you're pregnant, trying to conceive or want to level up your knowledge on exercise for pregnant women, this guide is a great place to start. Please keep in mind that every woman's needs and capabilities during pregnancy are different, and this information should be taken as a guide only. We recommend all women chat to their Obstetrician, GP, Physio or healthcare provider if they have any concerns about exercising during pregnancy to ensure the best outcome for you and your baby.
H2: Benefits of exercise for pregnant women
Choosing how you workout is a very personal thing, especially as an expecting mum. Your exercise capacity will depend on several things, including your and your baby's health, the stage of pregnancy, and your pre-pregnancy fitness. Regardless of how you decide to workout, studios have proven that there are countless benefits of exercise during pregnancy. These include:
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG) have also shown that exercise during pregnancy can lead to a lower incidence of:
Perhaps the most important benefit of them all is your enjoyment. There is no point hounding yourself to exercise if you don't enjoy it. So, find something that you love, and make time for it every week. All the other benefits will fall into place when you start moving that baby Mumma body of yours.
H2: Exercise during pregnancy 101: general considerations for expecting mums
As you are probably aware, pregnancy last for approximately 40 weeks from the date of the woman's last period and is divided into three trimesters. During each trimester, the fetus will meet specific development milestones, and your body will experience different changes and symptoms.
We cover some trimester-specific exercise information further down, but there are a few general things that expecting mums should know as they exercise throughout their pregnancy.
H2: Exercises to avoid during pregnancy
As a rule of thumb, most health care professionals recommend avoiding the following sports and forms of exercise during pregnancy:
These are all pretty self-explanatory and if you're ever in doubt, ask a medical professional. If you are exercising, be sure to stop and take it easy if you begin to feel ill, get too hot or dizzy, experience any discharge or bleeding, feel dehydrated or feel excessive pain in the chest, abdomen or calves. It's always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to protecting that little gem growing inside your belly.
Finally, if you start experiencing excessive fatigue, joint or muscle pain or become increasingly irritable, it might be a sign to ease back and listen to your body. Exercise is meant to make you feel good, so pushing yourself is not the answer.
H2: Pregnancy specific exercise recommendations
As the body changes during pregnancy, certain muscles will benefit from strength training, and some will love a good stretch. If you're designing an exercise program or trying to figure out what to do, consider the following:
Muscles to strengthen:
Muscles to stretch:
H2: Exercise for pregnant woman in First Trimester
When: Weeks 1 - 12
Congrats! You've just found out you're pregnant and trying to figure out your next steps. Your body is going through many hormonal changes right now, so you'll likely feel a bit more tired than usual. The first trimester also carries the highest risk of miscarriage, so be sure to listen to your body and not overpush it. Now is the time to foster some healthy and manageable exercise habits. Remember that the amount of exercise you can do is relative to the individual, so chat to your GP and go from there.
Workouts to do in the first trimester:
Your higher fatigue levels will make you feel like energy is in short supply, so favour low-impact exercise with some bursts of cardio when you're feeling up to it. Great workouts and forms of activity during the first trimester of pregnancy include:
Tip: It's time to become a pro at Kegels and strengthen up that pelvic floor (you'll thank us when you can sneeze without peeing in a few months!). Kegels are exercises to help strengthen the pelvic floor that supports the abdominal muscles like your uterus, bowel and bladder. Kegels can be done anywhere (sitting, standing, waiting in line at the supermarket…) and are super easy to do.
Step 1: With an empty bladder, pretend you are stopping the flow of urine
Step 2: Squeeze the pelvic floor and hold for 5-10 seconds
Step 3: Release and try again
Other good visuals include picking up a blueberry with your pelvic floor, pretending it is going up on an elevator, or trying to pull a tissue out of the box (honestly, use whatever metaphor you need to get that pelvic floor working!). As you do this, try and avoid squeezing the surrounding muscles like your glutes, legs and abs.
H2: Exercise for pregnant woman in Second Trimester
When: Weeks 13 - 26
As the second trimester rolls around and your baby grows, most women will experience a noticeable increase in their energy levels. Renewed energy may encourage you to do some more exercise; just make sure you remember to stay cool and listen to your body, especially as the second trimester triggers a noticeable drop in your blood pressure. As a result, try and avoid rapid changes in position to decrease the risk of dizzy spells.
Workouts to do in the second trimester:
Providing there are no complications, you can keep doing most of what is recommended for the first trimester. Consider implementing the following exercises (or mention them to your barre instructor at Aleenta to ensure we are helping your body during this exciting time).
Tip: try to avoid standing still or lying flat on your back for long periods, as your growing belly and uterus can put pressure on the large vein that returns blood to your heart. When you stand, blood may pool in your legs and feet, lower your blood pressure, and trigger a dizzy spell.
H2: Exercise for pregnant woman in Third Trimester
When: Weeks 27 - 40
You're on the home stretch! By now, you will be sporting a lovely round bump, growing breasts and should be well acquainted with kicks and movements from the little one growing in your uterus. As your body takes on a new shape and you prep for birth, nothing is stopping you from doing exercise, providing you feel up to it.
In the third trimester, your balance may be different, so keep steady and (as always) avoid anything that involves hopping, skipping and bouncing. Continue with those kegel exercises from trimester one and two, and consider avoiding anything where your legs are too far apart, especially if you feel any pain in the public bone area.
The third trimester can be exciting, stressful and overwhelming at times. Embrace the changes in your body and celebrate the fact that you are about to meet your child. Be sure to enjoy moments of stillness now as they may be few and far between once the little one has arrived.
Workouts to do in the third trimester:
Keep focusing on strengthening the pelvic floor, legs and arms. If you're attending classes, your instructor or fitness professional will ensure there are plenty of alternative exercises for you to do that work with your body. With this in mind, feel free to keep attending your favourite barre, pilates, yoga and swimming classes to keep your body moving and socialise with friends.
If you're working out at home or the gym, the following exercises would be great additions to your routine:
Tip: As your belly gets heavier a support belt is a great way to take a load off, especially when walking or during cardio.
You've got this, Mumma.
The nine months of pregnancy is such a special time. Regardless of whether you are a pregnancy angel seemingly floating through the air without a hitch, or are plagued by nausea and back pain the entire time, the end result is always worth it. While everybody is different, and it is essential to listen to your healthcare provider's recommendations, we can promise you that movement, whether high intensity or a gentle stroll, can do your body, emotions, and mood the world of good. Just try not to put too much pressure on yourself – you are creating a brand new life after all!
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