Staying healthy and fit throughout pregnancy:

dispelling myths about exercising during pregnancy

My three pregnancies have all been different because of the amount of exercise I’ve done, and my age, of course, but I’m grateful to say that I’ve had easy pregnancies.

The first time I was pregnant at 31 years old I was recovering from a back injury and didn’t exercise much. I experienced some morning sickness and some mild discomfort but overall, the pregnancy went well. 

The labour and birth are another story though, for that first pregnancy! After 30 hours of labour, including three hours of pushing, I ended up having an emergency C-section. I also ended up with a spinal fluid leak and had to go back to the hospital to have a blood patch in my spine to seal the leak. 

My second pregnancy, two and a half years later, was again easy, and I succeeded in staying active. I taught six group yoga classes a week and did mild exercises at the gym. I managed to have a vaginal birth after the previous C-section, and was only in labour for eight hours. 

This third pregnancy at 42 years old wasn’t planned, but was received as a blessing for our family. During this pregnancy, I’ve been more active and fit than I was during the other pregnancies. At the beginning of this third pregnancy, I was still working full time and leading group classes. During the second trimester I focused on weight training, and in the last trimester I did mainly cardio. 

I would like to share what has worked for me in the hope that it will help you too.

 Usually during the first trimester, most women experience morning sickness and are more tired. It’s important to listen to our bodies and rest as much as needed, although I still believe in the “make it a lifestyle” motto, which means doing at least some exercise every day. 

The first trimester

I stopped doing abdominal exercises right away during my first trimester. I did a few planks here and there, but it didn’t feel appropriate for me.  I switched my focus to strengthening my posterior chain muscles to support my growing belly instead (see below).

The second trimester

During the second trimester I mainly focused on posterior chain exercises and upper body strength. What are the posterior chain muscles? They are muscles of the calves, hamstrings, glutes, back muscles (erector spinae, latissimus, and rear shoulder muscles). 

The posterior chain muscles are, from my point of view, the most important muscles to train. First, because if your glutes, lower back and lower body are strong, it will support the extra weight of the growing tummy. It will also help prevent the back discomfort and pain that is often associated with pregnancy. 

The main exercises I chose to focus on were deadlift, good morning, squats, hip thrusts, the bridge, kettlebell swings, and leg curls. During my second pregnancy an exercise specialist discouraged me from doing any lunges because of the instability in the body created by the hormone relaxin. This hormone helps the pelvis expand during birth by loosening the ligaments around the pelvis.  

I followed that advice in the previous pregnancy, but this time, as I was feeling stronger, I decided to keep doing them, and everything turned out okay. Step ups were not comfortable for me; it felt like I was compressing the baby. I also did a lot of pliés, until a pelvic floor physio told me that it would be better not to do them to keep the pelvic floor soft and relaxed for birth. 

Keeping the upper back muscles strong is also super important to balance all the breastfeeding and holding of the baby that will be soon happening. Most of us are already in a rounded posture simply with our lifestyle, and stretching the front side body, pectoral muscles, and anterior shoulder while strengthening the upper back muscles will help bring the body into an optimal balance/perfect posture. 

The third trimester

I am quite aware of how loose everything gets during pregnancy, and the extra weight that we gain, so staying active is important. During the last trimester, I stopped doing weight training exercises and mainly focused on cardio. 

After reading the book Breath, by James Nestor, I focused on doing cardio in a range that allowed me to breathe through my nose the whole time. This seems to have made all the difference for me. If I got out of breath going up a flight of stairs, focusing on breathing through my nose allowed me to go up the same flight of stairs without losing my breath.

There are so many different opinions in terms of what exercises to do and not to do while being pregnant, and it’s important to remember that we are all different. This is a time to find out what works for us, to listen to our bodies, and to honour this amazing, beautiful process. This is such a precious time; a time to appreciate the miracle our bodies can create.

The birth

bootcamp, coaching, counselling, counsellor, flexibility, flow yoga, yoga, vinyasa yoga, HIIT, high intensity interval training, meditation, mindfulness, mobility, nanaimo, vancouver island, relaxation, self care, self care, strength, toning, weight loss, nutrition, workout, fitness classes, workout, abs, core, upper body, lower body, strong, back, zumba, fitness, toning, full bodyOur beautiful baby boy came into the world in August 27, 2022 after labour was induced on my due date.

This was the most fantastic birth I have had so far. I felt empowered, cared for, supported, and managed to have a vaginal birth without any tears because of the excellent doctor and nurse that were with us. 

My partner caught the baby, and he came out into the world peacefully without even crying. It was beautiful. We’re feeling blessed and grateful.

I keep saying how amazing I feel about the birth. The recovery has been effortless. Seriously, I am amazed! I went at the river with our newborn 2 days after he was born.

Returning to exercise after the birth

A week after having the baby I was feeling ready to exercise. Here’s the first core routine I did. I did one minute of each exercise in a circuit. Three rounds of:

  • dead bug
  • walk up ceiling
  • open and close leg
  • legs go down and around 10x total
  • legs go out and around 10x total

Myths about exercise and pregnancy that need to change:

If you don’t exercise, you shouldn’t start during pregnancy. 

Pregnancy is an ideal time to start an exercise program, and it can be as easy as walking. It is recommended that we exercise for approximately 150 minutes per week, or 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week. If you are sedentary before pregnancy and remain sedentary, this might increase your risk for back pain and extra weight gain, and will make it harder to recover after birth.

You can’t work on your abs during pregnancy because it can cause damage to the baby, the pelvic floor, or even cause diastasis recti (abdominal separation). 

Some abdominal exercises might not be appropriate during pregnancy (any exercises that target the rectus abdominis, for example), but some core exercises are beneficial. Some exercises that target the transverse abdominis and strengthen the pelvic floor might help ease and prevent back pain, and prepare you for easier delivery and faster recovery.

You can’t do high impact exercise like running during pregnancy.

This is not true. It just depends whether you are already a regular runner. If you were already running, you can keep running. Listen to your body’s cues such as back or hip pain and any pelvic floor problems like incontinence or a feeling of heaviness.

Exercising will make you more tired. 

The truth is that exercise increases blood circulation and oxygen delivery to all parts of your body, which will actually make you less tired.

Lifting weights can be dangerous. 

Strengthening the body will help stabilize your lower back which can help manage pain. It can also help create more stability in the joints where the ligaments have become more lax.  

If you are unsure about what exercises to do during your pregnancy, please contact me at info@choose2be.ca  I would be happy to help you during such a special time.

Follow me on Instagram or Facebook for photos of my third pregnancy and some of the exercises I did.