If you’re a Personal Trainer and you run Bootcamp-type workouts, chances are you have a greater percentage of women than men participating in your classes. It’s therefore extremely likely that sooner or later you, are going to have a woman who’s pregnant attend one of your classes. For that reason, it’s essential that you’re up to speed on the current guidelines when it comes to training pregnant women in this fashion.
It’s important to note, every woman is different and every pregnancy is different. There is therefore no “blanket rule” which says “all pregnant women can do this” or “all pregnant women can’t do this”. Every pregnancy and the mother’s circumstances need to be taken on a case-by-case basis.
Medical Clearance for Pregnant Women
Your start point as the fitness professional is to ensure that any pregnant woman in your class has been cleared to exercise. Depending on the situation this can be done in a few different ways, but ideally you should obtain three important things:
1: Pre-screen Questionnaire filled out since the woman has been pregnant. For example, let’s say this woman has been training with you for over a year and filled out a pre-screen questionnaire when she originally started attending your classes. It is recommended that she fill out a new questionnaire once she has informed you she is pregnant.
If you’d like to use a specific pre-screen for pregnant woman, The Physical Activity Readiness Medical Examination for Pregnancy (PARmed-X for Pregnancy), developed by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology is a useful guide for screening and referral.
2: Medical Clearance. It is recommended the pregnant woman get direct clearance from their medical professional before continuing (or starting) to exercise. You would truly want this in writing or direct verbal confirmation from the medical professional. (As much as we love and trust our clients, we can’t be assured second-hand information is accurate)
3: A Waiver: Even if you have pre-screened your pregnant client and she has medical clearance, it is still recommended you ask her to sign a (perhaps new) waiver stating she understands the risks when it comes to exercising while pregnant and still chooses to participate.
Once you have the three things above, you then move onto the next stage
Past Exercise History
Your pregnant client has now filled out a pre-screen, got medical clearance, and signed a waiver which means she is cleared to exercise but that doesn’t really tell us what kind of exercise she should or shouldn’t do.
Our start point for choosing the exercise program is the woman’s past exercise history.
Here are three scenarios to assist you in clearance guidance:
- If the woman has been previously exercising, then her medical professional will usually advise that she continue to do what she has been doing, (perhaps at a slightly lower intensity) and adjust as needs be.
- If the woman was attending your classes before her pregnancy, then she can continue attending taking the advice above. If the woman wasn’t attending your classes before her pregnancy, then you need to find out what she was doing previously, if anything. If she had been performing a similar workout to yours just elsewhere, then she may be able to attend your class and just modify.
- If the woman hadn’t been previously exercising, then it’s recommended that she start at a low level of intensity, which is really sound advice for anyone, pregnant or not. Bootcamps tend to operate at a high level of intensity, so it’s usually not recommended for a woman to start attending a Bootcamp during her pregnancy if she hasn’t previously been attending. (*It is not common for a non-exercising woman to find out she’s pregnant and sign up for a bootcamp class right out of the gate!)
Look Out for Warning Signs
Now the woman has been pre-screened, signed a waiver, and has been medically cleared to continue her regular exercise program and she is good to attend your bootcamp. However, you want to keep an eye out for any warning signs that she may be in distress, and you want the pregnant woman to be aware of them, too.
Some of the warning signs could include (but not limited to)
- Excessive shortness of breath
- Dizziness or feeling faint
- Seeing spots or fainting
- Chest pain or palpitations
- Blurred vision
- New or persistent nausea or vomiting
- Calf pain/swelling or unusual muscle weakness
- Any kind of pain or numbness
- Excess fatigue after exercise
- Vaginal bleeding
- Abdominal cramps or pain
- Intense or new back pain
- Leaking of amniotic fluid
If the woman experiences any of these symptoms, it’s recommended she stop exercising and see her medical professional immediately. Certainly, any emergency situation should be treated as such and proper first aid/CPR procedures should be followed.
Activities to Avoid
As mentioned earlier, every woman is different and every pregnancy is different, so there’s not a list of exercises/workouts that a pregnant woman should never participate in.
There are, however, certain exercises that are considered higher-risk than others, such as:
- High impact, jerky or ballistic movements
- Exercise intensities or duration that make the client feel hot, exhausted or excessively sweat.
- Sudden changes of intensity and position, (such as burpees).
- Any exercise that involves breath holding or Valsalva maneuver
- Any exercise that places significant load on the abdominals or pelvic floor including abdominal curls, sit-ups, and planks
- Stretching beyond comfortable range of movement
- Weight-bearing activities beyond comfortable range of movement.
- Exercises involving lying supine from 16 weeks onwards.
- Exercises in stationary standing (especially upper body strengthening) that may increase the risk of fainting.
- Contact activities (to minimize risk of falls and blows to the abdomen).
- Any exercise that may cause or exacerbate any pregnancy-related condition
It is strongly recommended that a Personal Trainer complete a CEU course in training pregnant women. Even if you don’t currently train pregnant women it’s only a matter of time before one of your clients/class participants becomes pregnant. Feel free to check out our Pre and Post Natal Certification.
Can a pregnant woman still participate in Bootcamps? The answer is: it depends.
If the pregnant woman has:
- been appropriately pre-screened
- cleared medically
- signed a waiver
- previously been attending your Bootcamp class
- doesn’t experience any of the described warning signs
…and you can modify the exercises appropriately for her, then there is a good chance that, yes, she can continue. If any of the above conditions are not met, then it is not recommended that a pregnant woman participate in your Bootcamp class. Be sure to thoroughly explain to your client why you cannot take the risk to her and her baby’s health to invite her into your class, and be sure to offer her reasonable alternatives to help keep her healthy and motivated throughout her pregnancy.