When you find out you’re pregnant, your mind immediately starts to race through countless topics — from waiting to find out if you’re having a boy or a girl to hoping your little one stays healthy and safe through the next nine months to considering all the ways your life is going to change. And during pregnancy, some of the biggest changes you’ll experience are in your body.
As you progress through each trimester, you’ll feel your body grow and evolve to accommodate your child. This is all normal (although super uncomfortable at times)! And if you have an active lifestyle, you may wonder how to keep it up with all of these rapid changes. You also want to find pregnancy safe workouts to keep you and baby happy and healthy!
Safe prenatal exercise doesn’t have to be a mystery — but you might mistakenly be believing some popular myths that are keeping you from the workouts you love. As your friendly online pelvic floor physical therapist (and as a mama myself!), I’m here to help you debunk those myths for good.
I bet you’ve heard this one before — in fact, it’s probably why you’re reading this blog post. So many of my in-person physical therapy clients have mentioned this when they come in for a prenatal appointment! Staying active without performing any exercises on your back for the better part of a year is tricky. Thankfully, it’s also not necessary. There are ways to safely exercise during your entire pregnancy, even on your back! We’ll debunk this myth in detail, so keep reading.
Here’s the truth behind myths: there’s usually a fact hiding somewhere in them that’s been blown out of proportion. It’s true that certain types of core work should be modified to reduce abdominal coning and doming, which can make diastasis worse. However, avoiding all core work can do more harm than good! A strong core can reduce back, pelvic and hip pain during pregnancy. It can also help you improve your posture and balance as you adjust to carrying the extra weight of your baby as he or she grows. There’s absolutely a safe way to train your core throughout pregnancy, and I highly recommend it!
Again, this is a nugget of truth that’s been turned into a blanket statement. Thoracic (upper back) rotation is an important part of core and spine health. You can definitely perform thoracic movements during pregnancy! However, lumbar (lower back) rotation requires a little more caution during pregnancy. You can still do these movements, but I advise against extreme rotation or heavy reps. This can worsen diastasis, or keep it from healing after childbirth.
There is no “magic number” when it comes to weights that are recommended for prenatal workouts. In actuality, the weight you can lift totally depends on you! If you were lifting heavy before you got pregnant, you can keep lifting that way — just stick to maintenance instead of reaching for a bunch of new PRs. And if you weren’t lifting before pregnancy, you can start! The best way to stay active during pregnancy is to pace your movements in a way that’s safe and attainable for you. This will prepare your body for labor, delivery, and motherhood.
This might be my least favorite myth of all! No matter what your life looked like before you were expecting, exercising while pregnant is a great way to prepare your body for the seasons ahead. Start where you are — there’s no shame in any fitness level! If you’re not sure where to start, I have a solution for you at the end of this blog.
Just like weights, there’s no magical heart rate number that you cannot exceed during pregnancy. You may have heard “140 BPM” as the highest you can go, but this is no longer supported by research. Instead, focus on your workout intensity. Your workouts should be challenging and fun, not incredibly arduous and painful. Keep an eye on your exertion levels instead of your heart rate.
Exercising on your back was considered an issue in the past due to inferior vena compression, which causes dizziness, low blood pressure, sweating, nausea and increased heart rate. Your inferior vena cava is a large vein that returns blood to your heart from your lower body. Compression symptoms typically arise within 3-10 minutes of lying on your back — which means you would notice pretty quickly if this condition affects you.
Thankfully, there’s a simple fix: just change positions! Move from lying on your back to lying on your left side. This condition does happen — it occurs in up to 8% of women in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. Exercising on your back may not bother you at all, but if it does, there are still ways to stay active safely. And current ACOG guidelines do not completely dismiss back exercise for pregnant women. Instead, they note that exercise on your back should be avoided for prolonged periods of time – performing an exercise for a minute of two on your back is not likely to cause concern, so unless those symptoms show up, you’re in the clear!
If you experience any symptoms of inferior vena compression, like sudden dizziness or nausea, roll onto your left side to ease that compression. Even without those symptoms, if lying on your back for an exercise causes pain or discomfort, stop and find a way to modify the movement. (Here’s an example of simple modifications for bench press by yours truly!) You can also ask your PT or medical provider to advise!
Still feeling overwhelmed by where to start, how to work out safely, or even just which program to follow that will actually help you stay strong during pregnancy and into motherhood? I get it — and I created Movement Through Pregnancy just for you.
I wanted to create an easy way to guide you through each trimester. Made to join in exactly where you are during pregnancy, just find the week you’re in and hit play! You’ll find videos filmed during my own pregnancy to show you the movements. Each week of Movement Through Pregnancy includes 1 upper body day, 1 lower body day, 1 full body day, and 1 pelvic floor and core stability day.
This program was designed to help you wave goodbye to stress over safety concerns — and it’ll also help you stay strong, reduce pain and prevent long-term dysfunction related to diastasis, prolapse, and other common pregnancy concerns. Get started with Movement Through Pregnancy today!