Despite being in a crucial stage, pregnant women don’t get enough guidance when it comes to their fitness and nutrition. A study on the nutrition and exercise behaviors of pregnant women revealed that they often feel overwhelmed and confused in following these health practices due to a lack of knowledge and skills. Given this knowledge gap, these expectant mothers are concerned about the safety of physical activities. As a personal trainer, it is your duty to help pregnant clients overcome these concerns by implementing safe and effective exercise programs. Make sure that you can maintain the health of your clients and their unborn child by following these training do’s and don’t’s:
Do: Conduct a Pre-Activity Health Screening and Fitness Assessment
Health screenings and fitness assessments are crucial for pregnant clients, especially since many changes are occurring in their bodies. Before you create an exercise program for them, they need to be screened by a professional with a background in general healthcare studies. These professionals are knowledgeable in anatomy and public health, so they can assess any pre-existing health conditions or health issues in your client. On top of that, your pregnant client should also be assessed by a professional with credentials in nutrition and dietetics. These professionals will help your client meet the energy requirements for the exercise program through a tailored diet.
Don’t: Maintain the Same Intensity and Duration Across All Trimesters
As a part of your client’s health team, it is also important for you to understand what’s happening to their bodies. This knowledge will help you shape the training program based on what stage they are in their pregnancy. High-intensity exercises can be beneficial for pregnant women in their first and second trimesters. The intermittent periods of hypoxia caused by high-intensity exercises are advantageous for the fetus since this is a crucial development stage for the placenta. However, personal trainers will need to modify the exercise program during the third trimester of pregnancy. While a study reveals that vigorous exercise is safe during this period, you should still consider your client’s balance, belly size, and overall health condition before continuing with high-intensity exercise routines.
Do: Pay Attention to Your Pregnant Clients’ Body Alignment and Breathing
Personal trainers understand the importance of paying attention to their client’s body alignment and breathing patterns. However, this is more crucial for trainers handling pregnant women because it ensures the client’s comfort and safety. Case in point: an expectant mom’s belly can affect their body’s balance during strength training. Thus, it’s important that you make sure that her ribcage is positioned over her belly when she’s working on strength training, interval training, and core exercises. Personal trainers also have to observe their expectant client’s breathing patterns, especially during more intense workout programs. Breathing techniques are particularly helpful in managing their intra-abdominal pressure throughout different exercises.
Don’t: Ask Pregnant Clients to Do Supine Exercises or Abdominal Twists
Due to the changes occurring in their bodies, there are a few exercises that aren’t safe for pregnant women and their babies. Our article on pregnant expectant mothers who are new to exercise emphasized that supine exercises and abdominal twists can be dangerous. The former is particularly harmful once a client has entered the second trimester because the added weight of the baby bump can affect one’s spine and back. This can potentially compress the large vessels that provide oxygen and blood supply to both the mother and the baby. Meanwhile, abdominal twists and crunches are dangerous because the pressure on the abdominal muscles may contribute to a condition called diastasis recti.
As a personal trainer, you have to ensure your client’s safety throughout their program. Help your clients overcome health concerns and achieve their optimal health by following these exercise do’s and don’ts for pregnant women.
Author: Jillian Allen