Should You Exercise While Pregnant?
So you’re about to have a baby, or you know someone that is... either way, congratulations! This is an exciting time and to make it more awesome, you’re going to want to be prepared. To compile the best information for you, I turned to Dr. Gael Abou Ghanam.
Dr. Gael is an obstetric gynaecologist, specialised in fertility and infertility preservation. We tackled many questions like what type of exercise is recommended during pregnancy? Is it safe to lose weight during pregnancy? And so much more. We also discussed some of the questions I received on Instagram from you guys, like “What should I do if my doctor doesn’t allow me to workout?”
Even though I’m a certified personal trainer in pre and post-natal exercise, I still get confused when I hear conflicting information on the topic. So I was excited to have this conversation with Dr. Gael to clear things up once and for all!
This is the third time I talk to Dr. Gael, and for good reason. She’s helped me with so many other topics like PCOS and whether you should exercise on your period. So let’s get started!
BENEFITS OF WORKING OUT WHILE PREGNANT
Working out during pregnancy:
- Helps reduce the infamous back pain most women get during the 9 months
- Eases constipation, diabetes, hypertension, and the chance of a c-section
- Promotes healthy weight gain
- Makes it easier to lose the baby weight after delivery
ENCOURAGE NEW MOMS TO EXERCISE
As Dr. Gael put it: “I always tell my patients, you are pregnant not sick! I understand people are scared to workout because they think it might lead to miscarriages, but studies have shown that it’s safe and recommended.”
As long as you do some moderate activity and don’t push yourself, working out can definitely be a positive thing. Basically you want to raise your heart rate and sweat. Dr. Gael says, “You should be able to talk during the workout but you shouldn’t be able to sing!”
It’s different if you’ve been exercising before getting pregnant. You’ll just need to adapt your workouts to your changing body. But before any of that, Dr. Gael insists you check with your doctor and update them on the types of workouts you plan on doing.
SAFE TIMES TO WORKOUT
If you have no complications and you’ve been signed off by your doctor to exercise, then it’s safe all the way from the 1st to the 3rd trimester. However, if you suffer from heart or lung diseases, cervical insufficiency, pregnant with twins or triplets, have anemia, premature contractions, then it’s not recommended for you to workout. You don’t want to develop premature contractions and deliver early!
Speaking of anemia, many women suffer from mild to severe anemia once they get pregnant. It’s important to speak to your doctor and try to sort it out early on. Suffering from anemia can make it harder to breathe, tougher to exercise, and may lead to preterm delivery.
RESTING IN THE 1ST TRIMESTER: FACT OR FICTION?
Dr. Gael politely busted one particular myth I kept hearing about, which was pregnant women must rest in the first trimester, “To be honest, I think it’s more psychological than scientific that exercising in the 1st trimester could lead to miscarriages. You could be resting in bed the first 3 months and still have a miscarriage. Look for signs at the beginning, if you feel tired, nauseous, or you’re bleeding, then don’t exercise and rest.”
WHAT IF YOU NEVER WORKED OUT BEFORE GETTING PREGNANT?
If you’re new to working out you should start slowly. Dr. Gael emphasises, “It’s never too late to start, even at the 3rd trimester!”
Just keep these things in mind:
- Start with 5 minutes a day and gradually increase activity
- Nothing too aggressive on the body
- Do an exercise you like
- Drink plenty of water
- Wear a sports bra to support the breasts
- Wear a belly support belt while walking or running
- Stationary biking since your balance might tilt on a regular bicycle
- Try slow running, walking, and swimming to ease back pain
- Try prenatal yoga and pilates (it’s great for muscles and ligaments)
- If you must lie on your back during a workout, make sure it’s for a little while (laying too long can cause dizziness)
HOW MUCH GAINED WEIGHT IS TOO MUCH?
Dr. Gael and myself both agree that losing weight during pregnancy is not acceptable. “There’s a new trend going around of pregnant anorexia, where women stop eating and are over exercising, which is not recommended at all.” You can’t escape gaining some weight ladies, but what you can do is control it in a healthy way.
Since you’ll be physically active, it’s also important to add on the calories as your pregnancy progresses. During the second trimester, you’ll have to add 350 calories to your day, and on the third trimester another 500 calories. So, don’t be afraid to eat! If you are suffering from weight gain, try to tackle it before getting pregnant. As long as you’re taking care of your body with the right foods and giving it what it (and your baby) needs, you shouldn’t worry about your weight.
WHAT EXERCISES SHOULDN’T YOU DO?
Some exercises you shouldn’t be doing while pregnant are horseback riding, skiing, hot yoga, basketball, soccer, and scuba diving. If it’s an activity with risk of falling or being hit with a ball for example, it’s recommended to avoid it.
Dr. Gael recounts an interesting study she came across about women in Nepal that were physically active while pregnant and gave birth to completely healthy babies. What activities were those women doing? Oh nothing, just climbing Mount Everest with heavy luggage on their backs. “High level physical activity was acceptable for them because they’re used to it!”
While we’re not encouraging you to climb a mountain or go on a daily trek, it just goes to show there are officially no excuses! You’re not fragile and your body can do more than you think.
WHEN CAN I WORKOUT POST DELIVERY?
“With an uncomplicated, vaginal delivery you can be exercising again in 6 weeks. That’s the average time it takes for the body to go back to its normal state and when your joints and ligaments are flexible again.”
You do have to take care of a specifically weak part of your body after delivery, and that’s the pelvic muscles. These muscles need some work after birth, but doing some pelvic floor rehabilitation will be able to bring it back to normal. Try doing some kegel exercises, before, during and after pregnancy.
“With a woman who’s given birth through c-section, it’s recommended to wait at least 3 months before exercising. Start slowly and give special attention to core exercises.”
WHY WORKOUT AFTER DELIVERY?
Exercising for a new mother can be a blessing in disguise. The dopamine you get from a workout will get you happy, energetic, and excited to be the best mom you can be. It gets you out of the house, puts you around people, and ultimately will make you feel a lot less lonely if you’re struggling with maternity leave.
INSTAGRAM QUESTIONS I GOT
First, ask your doctor why you aren’t allowed. Is it serious? Could it be solved? Discuss recommendations, suggest slow paced activities like walking, or get a second opinion. Your doctor is just worried about you feeling guilty if anything happens during the first trimester, they do have your best interest at heart after all.
Yes, it’s safe to do some planks and crunches at the beginning, but it’s not recommended to perform those moves at a later stage in your pregnancy. There are better movements out there, especially ones that are belly friendly.
Yes you can, but you have to monitor your heart rate. You should be out of breath, but still be able to talk! Zumba, Body Pumps, and Steps classes are all good ideas for cardio. Always remember to stay hydrated.
Walking, slow running, prenatal yoga, and anything related to aqua fitness. The water helps with the feeling of heaviness you’ll be experiencing in the 3rd trimester.
ADVICE FROM A MOM + DOCTOR
Since Dr. Gael is a recent mother, I asked what’s her advice to women that are planning on getting pregnant soon. “Start with folic acid as soon as you decide to try for a baby. Also, exercise before getting pregnant so you can lose weight and strengthen muscles. Be at your healthiest by making sure your iron levels are normal and that you’re taking care of your nutrition. Trust me, this will all lead to an easier pregnancy and delivery.”
Time To Share!
I hope you guys enjoyed this latest topic, I know I did! If you know anyone that is pregnant, share this article with them to help them become happy and healthy mommies. Send it as a podcast if you know someone that’s expecting and always on the go! Dr. Gael and I love hearing feedback and if you benefited from this, so don’t forget to tag us and let us know!