The best way to prepare for the joys and challenges of pregnancy is by taking good care of yourself. That includes making time for things you enjoy, getting plenty of rest, eating well, and maintaining an exercise routine.
In the following article, we'll share some tips for safe, effective exercises for every stage of pregnancy, from your first trimester to delivery day.
First and most importantly, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before starting any exercise plan. Pregnancy causes significant changes in your body, and even experienced gym goddesses may need to modify their regular routines.
It is also important to remember that as your body changes and your baby grows during the various stages of pregnancy, your workout will need to change too, moving from the vigorous routines you may be able to maintain in your first trimester, to slower, lower intensity workouts in your third.
Some general safety guidelines for prenatal exercise include:
- Stretching before and after workouts
- Staying hydrated
- Avoiding high-impact or full-contact activities, or any exercise where you could take a hard fall
- Monitoring your heart rate to maintain a safe rhythm
- Wearing support gear to ease discomfort, like sturdy shoes, ankle or knee braces, belly bands, a compression shirt, or any of the products found here
Stop exercising immediately and call your doctor or midwife if you feel winded or dizzy, or if you notice any discharge or bleeding.
The first trimester
The first three months of pregnancy can bring on increased fatigue, bouts of nausea, constipation, heartburn and other pregnancy-induced symptoms that can make working out uncomfortable. First-time mothers may also be especially concerned about how their physical activity might affect their unborn babies.
For the majority of women, though, exercising in the first trimester is perfectly safe. In fact, most healthcare providers recommend that pregnant moms stay as active as possible for as long as they're able, to improve their overall health and the health of their growing babies.
The second trimester
In the second trimester, you may begin to feel like your old self again (with the exception of your growing baby bump, of course!). Your nausea and morning sickness may finally be fading, and you might notice that you have more energy.
Physical changes in the second trimester are likely to include backaches caused by your growing belly, enlarged breasts, nasal congestion, headaches, heartburn, and weight gain—especially if you spent most of your first trimester suffering from morning sickness.
As long as you feel up to it, continue your current level of physical activity. You may even feel energized enough to increase the length or number of your workout sessions. That is entirely safe, as long as you listen to your body and don't overdo it.
The third trimester
By the final months of your pregnancy, you may find yourself naturally slowing down. Pregnancy weight gain can put pressure on your hip and knee joints, cause backache, make sleeping comfortably difficult, and can cause you to become winded more easily. Fatigue and difficulty with balance can also have an impact.
During the final months, while it's safe to maintain an exercise routine, you should cut back on both the frequency and intensity of your workouts. Pay attention to your body—now is not the time to push through pain or fatigue.
Now that you're ready to get moving, here are some exercises you can do safely throughout your pregnancy.
Walking requires little more than a good pair of sneakers. Take a gentle stroll around your neighborhood, local track, on a treadmill at the gym—you can even find tons of indoor walking workouts online!
If you're just starting out, begin with 10-15 minutes of walking three to five days a week. Eventually, you can build up to a 30-minute walk every day.
Stick to smooth, flat routes to minimize your risk of tripping or falling.
Runners, rejoice! As long as your body feels good, it's generally safe to maintain your regular workouts.
Avid runners should aim for about 30 minutes or so, at least three days a week.
As with walking, skip the trails and opt for smooth, flat routes to reduce your risk of falling. Listen to your body and don't push yourself too hard; stop when you're tired or if you begin to experience any unusual cramping or joint pain.
If you're not a runner, you shouldn’t try to become one now. There are plenty of other ways you can stay active during pregnancy.
Swimming and water aerobics are wonderful during pregnancy because they're low impact, help you build muscle strength and cardiovascular health at the same time, and make your body feel light and buoyant, which can help ease pregnancy discomfort. There's also no risk of falling, so swimming is safer than biking or running as your growing belly shifts your natural center of gravity.
A good beginning swim or water aerobics workout is a 30-minute session three to five times a week. If you're a regular swimmer, it's okay to follow your normal routine as long as you feel up to it.
Yoga can help improve your balance, strengthen your muscles, reduce blood pressure, and relieve pregnancy-related aches and pains.
Start with a 30-minute session per week and work up to 30 minutes a day.
If you're a seasoned yogi, be sure to let your regular instructor know that you're pregnant so you can modify your practice accordingly. If you're new to yoga, find a prenatal class or a certified instructor with experience in prenatal yoga.
In any practice, be sure to avoid:
- Twisting poses
- Headstands or other inversion poses
- Bikram yoga (also called 'hot yoga')
Strength training is a fantastic way to prepare your body for the physical challenges of pregnancy and labor.
Aim for low to moderate intensity sessions twice a week, using free weights or machines. Switch to bodyweight exercises as you enter the last months of pregnancy.
Avoid exercises where you have to lie on your back or hold weights over your stomach and concentrate on keeping your breathing slow and even.
Maintaining an active pregnancy has incredible benefits for both you and your baby. Establish an easy-to-follow exercise routine early on and enjoy this special time!