Updated: Sep 20
You’ll never forget the moment you picked up that test stick and saw those two pink lines confirming what you likely already expecting… you’re pregnant!
Whether the initial emotion was fear or excitement, or maybe a little bit of both, you might have started to wonder what the next 9 months would hold in store for you. How much is going to stay the same, and how much is going to change?
For many expecting moms, whether they were working out pre-pregnancy or not, staying active during this time can seem like a daunting task. Some even wonder to what extent is it even recommended.
In this article, we’ll discuss why prenatal exercise is so important, as well as the best workouts for expecting moms.
Why Working Out During Pregnancy is Important
Pregnancy often breeds the temptation to sit back, take it easy, and cease all physical activity. Especially in that first trimester when morning sickness and fatigue are in full swing.
And while there is definitely a time and place to take it easy and let your body rest, consistent exercise should still be a priority for expecting mothers who aren’t experiencing any pregnancy complications.
Rest assured, you and your baby will be thankful you stayed active during these next 9 months. Benefits of being active include:
Reduced reports of backaches, swelling, bloating, and constipation
Increase in mood and energy levels
Limit excessive weight gain
Make it easier to lose weight after the baby is born
Building strength and endurance for the marathon of labor
Lower the risk of gestational diabetes
Shorten labor time
Lower risk of C-section
So, while you might feel like the best thing for you would be kicking up your feet and becoming a couch potato, the reality is you’re likely to have a much smoother and more enjoyable pregnancy if you prioritize some form of daily physical activity.
5 Workouts For Expecting Moms
There are countless activities and exercises that women can participate in during their pregnancy, but only select exercises are highly recommended because of the rich benefits they supply for mom and baby.
1. Swimming / Water Workouts
Swimming and water aerobics are considered the safest full-body exercises a pregnant woman can participate in. Not only do these activities keep your muscles looking toned and sexy, but they’re also great for your heart and blood pressure as they boost cardiovascular health.
Water workouts are also wonderful for reducing unwanted swelling in your extremities. Being in water can feel phenomenal for expecting moms as it alleviates pressure in the back, stomach, and legs, especially in the third trimester. If you’re having a summer pregnancy, find the nearest pool as this is definitely the workout for you!
2. Weight Training
Whether that's with machines or free weights, weight training is an excellent workout for expecting mothers at any stage of their pregnancy. Weight training strengthens the different muscle groups, preventing aching or pain, especially in areas such as the lower back or abdomen.
Weight training is also a great prep for smooth labor as it builds muscle and improves endurance, both of which come in handy during the grueling hours of childbirth. While weight training has proven to bring pregnant women countless prenatal benefits, it’s always important to check with your doctor or midwife before starting. Make sure you spend plenty of time warming up beforehand so as not to pull or strain any muscles.
There’s truly not enough that can be said about the positive effects walking can have for expecting mothers. According to Annandale Ob-Gyn, walking helps to safely burn calories and keep your weight in check, reducing the risk of premature birth and helping you return to your original weight quicker postpartum.
Studies have also shown that 30 minutes of walking each day drastically improved the mood and energy level of pregnant women. On top of these things, walking can improve sleep, relieve constipation, strengthen muscles, and ease aches and pains. Grab a loved one or put on some headphones and get walking!
The American Pregnancy Association found that women who practiced yoga during their pregnancy were able to improve their sleep, reduce stress, ease aches and pains, fight carpal tunnel syndrome, and decrease headaches.
Yoga also increases one's strength, flexibility, and endurance, all of which help tremendously during labor. In addition, yoga can reduce an expecting mother’s risk of preterm labor and intrauterine growth restriction. It’s best to avoid hot yoga as pregnant women can easily overheat or cause health complications with the baby.
5. Utilize Cardiovascular Equipment
Cardio equipment is an excellent tool for quickly getting your heart rate up and putting on a good sweat. Since the equipment is stationary, most are generally safe to use. Some of the best options would be a stationary bike, rowing machine, elliptical, or stair climbers.
Performing regular cardio while pregnant can help reduce pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, or C-section births. Cardio is also tremendous at preparing mothers for childbirth, which requires a great deal of cardiovascular performance. Always remember to listen to your own body when performing high cardio exercises as you don’t want to over-exhaust yourself.
According to the National Health Service of England, a good rule of thumb when working out is to always maintain a pace that would allow you to carry out a conversation with someone. If you aren’t able to manage a conversation during your workout, you might be pushing yourself too hard.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
While all the above exercises are fantastic for pregnant women to implement daily for a healthy pregnancy, there’s also a specific group of movements that should also be included in one’s prenatal preparation: pelvic floor exercises.
These movements specifically strengthen the muscles under the bladder, large intestine, and uterus. When the pelvic floor muscles are weakened or damaged - something that often occurs from carrying or delivering a baby - pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence can occur.
Strengthening these muscles during pregnancy, or even before pregnancy, can help prevent organ prolapse and urinary incontinence, as well as make post-partum sex a more enjoyable experience.
An easy way to find the pelvic floor muscles is to try and stop your urine flow when using the restroom. If you can successfully stop your urine flow multiple times, you’ve found the pelvic floor muscles.
Lie down with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Inhale slowly.
Exhale gently, draw in your lower abdominal muscles and squeeze in the muscles around the urethra like you’re trying to stop your urine flow. Concentrate on squeezing the muscles around the vagina.
Hold for 1–2 seconds, then let go. You’ll feel your pelvic floor muscles release and drop.
There are also pelvic floor physical therapists who can help with injury-prevention strength training or post-injury treatment for the pelvic floor muscles. Talk to your doctor or midwife for more information regarding the pelvic floor and what you can do to prep this muscle group.
Prenatal Workouts to Avoid
Generally speaking, most movements and activities benefit both mom and baby. However, a few should be avoided or practiced with caution.
Workouts that require prolonged amounts of time flat on your back
Hot yoga or any activity performed in hot or humid conditions
Activity that requires you to hold your breath
Full sit-ups, crunches, or double leg raises
Any activity that could cause you to fall
Remember to always check with your doctor or midwife before beginning any new workout regime, especially if you have pregnancy complications. It’s also important to be in tune with your own body and avoid anything that causes you pain or discomfort.
Performing the right exercises during pregnancy can provide countless benefits for both mother and baby. But remember, this should be an exciting and fun time, not a stressful time. Be careful not to over-worry or choose workouts that make you miserable.
Rather, select workouts that you enjoy and help pass away the time. Find friends, perhaps ones who are also pregnant, who can join you in these exercises and make them more enjoyable.
Keep active during these next 9 months and both you and your baby will benefit in the long run.
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