5 Key things I've learned regarding exercising in pregnancy
There are so many different attitudes toward exercising through pregnancy - some people treat pregnancy like a disability and for others it's just a normal part of women's journey. Even though nowadays there is plenty of proof how beneficial exercising during pregnancy is, there are still many people who do not understand and who condemn pregnant women for exercising, no matter how much you try to explain to them.
Once you are pregnant and start searching for advice, whether it be online or with your friends, family or doctor, prepare yourself to get a lot of conflicting advices. When you start searching for advice related to the exercising, it gets even more complicated because no one really wants to say or advise something that might put you and your baby in danger.
I knew that I wanted to continue being active all way through my pregnancy even before I got pregnant. Honestly, exercising became a part of me I did not want to give up, so I made sure I've learned what things should be considered if I want to maintain my fitness activity.
Some of the key things I've learned related to exercising through pregnancy:
1. If exercise was part of your everyday life prior to getting pregnant, it is not only possible to continue your regime during the pregnancy, but also very beneficial both to you and your baby.
If you have not exercised prior to getting pregnant, you can still incorporate exercising to your daily routine - walking, swimming, stationary cycling are all safe options.
Exercising will provide a lot of benefits, some of which are: less weight gain and fat accumulation, less low-back, leg or pelvic discomfort, less constipation, bloating and swelling, improved mood etc.
In the first trimester it is safe to do mostly everything that you've been doing so far.
Second and third trimester on the other hand, call for some adaptation as some of the moves should be avoided to prevent injury (for example abs exercises should be avoided as it can lead to diastasis recti).
When you should not exercise in pregnancy though?
Some of the common things listed are:
- if you are injured or have acute illness,
- if you experience vaginal bleeding with or without cramping in early pregnancy,
- if you have prolonged dizziness or faintness,
- if you experience chest pain, persistent headaches or out of the ordinary muscle weakness, calf swelling or pain,
- if you have intractable nausea and vomiting,
- if you feel sudden onset of new pain, especially in the abdomen or pelvis or uterine contractions,
- if you see big decrease in fetal movement.
All of the above points to a problem and you might have to either modify or stop exercising for a time.
Absolute contraindications to exercising are incompetent cervix, multiple gestation at risk for premature labor, placenta previa after 26 weeks, pregnancy induced hypertension.
2. Exercise during pregnancy should be maintained at an intensity that feels moderate to somewhat hard - a workout that is tough, but still feels okay to continue.
If you used to monitor your heart rate zones while exercising, to see how hard you are working out, unfortunately, this will not be helpful anymore. Your heart rate levels are not accurate indication of exertion while exercising in pregnancy due to hormonal changes in your body. In the 1st trimester your heart rate will go way out of proportion to how hard you are exercising, in 2nd trimester that will correct itself, while in 3rd trimester some women's heart rates stay very low no matter how hard they push themselves.
So how should you make sure you are not working out too hard?
It comes down to subjective rating of how hard you are working out, but If you can still hold a conversation with someone while exercising - you know you are in good range.
If you are unable to carry on a conversation because you are too out of breath to talk, it is a sign that you are working out too hard and you should modify your exercise by slowing down, reducing exercise workload or taking a break.
3. While exercising, you should pay attention to:
- staying well hydrated and drinking water regularly all day long as well as while exercising (clean urine should be a sure sign of adequate hydration)
- not getting overheated. Avoid hot, humid environments and poor ventilation.
- not getting overtired. Adequate rest is extremely important. If you can, take an afternoon nap, go to bed early if you plan to wake up early, make sure you get rest days etc. - this will help with lot of symptoms of fatigue which are common in pregnancy.
4. Listen to your body and be careful.
If something does not feel right, you feel tension and pain, stop it. When in doubt, common sense is the way to go. When I got pregnant, I realized that what you plan to do prior to getting pregnant and what you actually will be able to do can be two different things. That does not mean you have to give up everything you have planned, just that sometimes, some things will have to be adapted.
Don't be afraid to switch things up according to how your body feels. Some adjustments are needed to ensure a healthy, fit and safe pregnancy - put the health and safety of your baby first. Even though nine months can seem like a really long time of not maintaining your fitness levels, it is only temporary and it is not the end of the world to stop working out if you need to.
5. Exercising through out the pregnancy takes a lot of mental willingness, specially later on as you become more uncomfortable the more pregnant you are and the bump starts getting in the way.
As with any regime, it can be helpful to write down and plan your week ahead. This was you are more likely to stick with it. Don't be too hard on yourself though - there will be times when you definitely won't feel like working out. Take a rest day and pick up where you left off later on, or make it an easier workout day.
Everyone's journey, whether pregnancy or in general, is different, so there is really no point in comparing yourself to someone else, now more than ever. Your goals are unique and they correspond to your fitness levels and frequency of training, so you do what you can :)