Sometimes pregnancy can be unexpected, and this means that a lot about lifestyle will change in the moment one discovers she’s with child. Many women will want to begin exercising to be as healthy as possible during their pregnancy. But what if exercise wasn’t a part of her daily routine before the pregnancy? What misconceptions, pre- and post-natal advice, or pregnancy myths might she have been advised?
Often women will be unsure if it is safe to begin exercising when they are pregnant. It’s understandable for these women to be confused on what is and isn’t advisable concerning exercise and pregnancy. There are decades of old rhetoric and superstition that continues to circulate in society, claiming such myths as women shouldn’t exercise or exert themselves when expecting, accompanied by the unsolicited critique that can be elicited around exercising moms-to-be.
Fortunately, science and years of active women’s experiences have shown that light to moderate exercise is a highly recommended addition to lifestyle when carrying a child.
Before delving into the benefits and exercises to try with your expecting or clients who are new parents, let’s bust some exercise pregnancy superstitions.
Pregnancy Myth 1:
“If you didn’t exercise before pregnancy it’s unsafe to start during”
This is one of the most perpetuated misbeliefs of pregnancy and exercise. Some women might heartily welcome this directive that eases the burden of “to-dos”, and I don’t blame them! That pregnancy is hard 1s an understatement. Add exercise into the mix and an already anxious expectant mother might feel overwhelmed, especially if exercise wasn’t something already in the daily routine.
However, exercising through pregnancy is greatly beneficial to mom, baby, and the experience itself. The benefits of regular physical activity include preventing/treating gestational diabetes, fighting fatigue, relieving stress and anxiety, improving sleep, relieving constipation, preventing back and pelvic pain, improving overall stamina (which will be helpful if labor is lengthy), and enabling a quicker recovery.
Pregnancy Myth 2:
“Don’t exercise the abdominal muscles”
It was once commonly held that avoiding abdominal exercises would reduce the risk of diastasis recti, the separation in the connective tissue of the rectus abdominus. Research has shown that exercise itself is not to blame, but often how it is performed. On the contrary, a strong core is likely to prevent separation and also alleviate back pain many women experience during this time. In addition, properly strengthening the abdominals and pelvic floor will help with labor and recovery.
Pregnancy Myth 3:
“The woman’s heart rate shouldn’t exceed 140 bpm”
There’s nothing more frustrating in the realm of health and fitness world than a blanket statement. The truth is, every woman’s pregnancy is unique, which means her level of fitness and routine will be as well. Unless there are pre-existing conditions, the pregnancy is high risk, or the doctor has given specific exercise parameters based on the mother’s health history, it’s best to judge exertion, or RPE, by the “talk test”. The client should be able to hold a conversation throughout the workout, which may fall at 160bpm for some individuals.
Pregnancy Myth 4:
“When pregnant, women shouldn’t lift weights”
Now, it’s probably not the best idea suddenly to take up Olympic lifting or going for your heaviest deadlift when expecting. Lifting heavy can temporarily spike blood pressure, and if the body isn’t acclimated already, this isn’t the time to start. However, working with low to moderate weight and higher reps is certainly not contraindicated during pregnancy. Maintaining and improving muscular strength is safe and encouraged.
If you are working with a mom to be who wants to begin exercising during pregnancy here are a few more awesome benefits you can talk to them about.
Exercising while pregnant:
- Can prevent excessive weight gain during the pregnancy
- Will lower risk of developing gestational diabetes
- Can prevent a cesarean or forceps delivery
- Can experience less leg swelling due to improved blood flow that exercise promotes
- May lower risk of preeclampsia by helping to keep blood pressure in a healthy range
Advocate for your moms-to-be, support them in their journey, and make sure they know how great exercise will be for their pregnancy and overall well-being.