A common misconception is that you shouldn't exercise while pregnant. But this is a myth and goes against most doctors' recommendations to stay active and healthy throughout pregnancy. Here are some common questions answered, but remember to always check with your provider, and understand that every pregnancy is different.
Q. Can I still do ab work while pregnant? A. Yes, you can still do ab work, but the type that you do will be different. Stability exercises should be the focus of your abdominal work, so things like crunches, hanging leg raises, and similar exercises should not be performed. However, exercises such as planks, side planks, bird-dogs are perfectly fine to perform. Feel free to modify these to make them more or less challenging based on your comfort and tolerance. Q. Can I still do cardio while pregnant? A. Yes! If you were participating in a cardio program prior to pregnancy, you can continue while pregnant, although you may consider reducing the intensity as you get farther along in your pregnancy. Current exercise recommendations are 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise 5 days per week. The standard cut-off is 28 weeks for running or jumping exercises, but consult your provider. If you weren’t participating in a cardio program prior to pregnancy, you may begin a low-intensity program, including walking, indoor cycling, swimming, or the elliptical depending on your comfort levels.
Q. Can I do load bearing exercises, like resistance training, or body weight resistance exercises? A. You can absolutely do load-bearing exercises if you were doing them prior to pregnancy. Generally, it is recommended to stay around 70-80% of your pre-pregnancy exercise intensity, and to keep the volume higher and intensity lower. You are encouraged to make progress in your training throughout your pregnancy if tolerated, considering that you will be fueling yourself appropriately. Some women scale their pregnancy back even more than 70%, and others are able to hit PRs during pregnancy! Everyone is different. The main thing to remember is to breathe through your movements, do not use the Valsalva maneuver, and do not bear down (brace) when lifting. Q. Can I begin a resistance training program after discovering I am pregnant? A. If you are cleared by your provider, you can begin a low intensity resistance training program. Make sure to connect with a qualified pre/post natal coach so they can guide and progress you through exercises safely and effectively. Q. When should I stop using my powerlifting belt? A. It is generally recommended to stop the use of a powerlifting belt as soon as you find out you are pregnant, due to needing to brace in order to use the belt, which goes against lifting recommendations while pregnant. Q. Which exercise positions should I avoid? A. Most women do not feel comfortable doing exercises while lying down flat on their back, but may alleviate discomfort by using a slight incline during training exercises. Lying on the stomach should also be avoided. Single legged and balancing movements can also be problematic, as a pregnant woman's center of gravity is changing, so using assistance for these movements, such as with a PVC pipe or a fixed object, can alleviate balance issues. Q. Should I change my diet if I am participating in a training program? A. Pregnant women should aim to eat healthy to support themselves and their growing baby. Meals centered around protein, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats should be a priority. Never train while fasted, and always have plenty of water and snacks available during training sessions. Make sure to refuel and rehydrate after each training session. Q. Can I still take my pre-workout while pregnant? A. It is generally good practice to avoid supplements that are not provided by your doctor during pregnancy. Avoid pre-workout blends, and opt for natural performance boosters, like simple carbohydrates and electrolytes prior and during a training session. General upper-limit recommendations for caffeine is 200mg for a pregnant person according to www.acog.org.
Q. Is there anything else I should know?! A. Remember to always discuss your questions with your provider and make sure you are on the same page. You can use www.acog.org as a reference for questions regarding safety for both mama and baby. Remember, the goal is to stay healthy and safe! Take care, mamas! Mel Avan, MS, CSCS Certified Pre/Post Natal Coach