In Part 1 of this post I wrote about general guidelines for pregnancy fitness. In this post I want to look at little more in-depth at some of the specific things which women commonly question when they are considering what to do during pregnancy.
Before I continue I advise that you read Part 1 and also remind you that you MUST get permission from your doctor before taking part in any form of exercise during pregnancy.
In this post I’m covering concerns I had during my own fit pregnancy (which you can read about here) as well as those I have been asked about by other pregnant women. So let’s have a look:
Can I lift weights?
Women are often discouraged from lifting weights during pregnancy. The general weight limit bandied about is around 10kg. This limit didn’t sit well with me for a number of reasons including the fact that every woman has a different strength base coming into pregnancy. From the information I found I was correct in my assumption that this generalised limit wasn’t correct. So what could I safely lift then? The simple answer was whatever I could safely lift. That meant:
– Making sure my technique was correct – this gets harder the further you get into your pregnancy when the weight of the bump causes a shift in your postrure and alignment. If you are in any way unsure as to whether your technique is correct then don’t do it. Poor technique makes it unsafe for your body. Baby will be fine but muscles need to be cared for too.
– Avoiding holding my breath – prior to becoming pregnant I would have lifted very heavy weight that required me to do this so I halved my lifting weight straight away.
– Reducing the weight as my pregnancy progressed and increasing my reps instead.
– Giving myself adequate rest days to allow my muscles to recover – not something I was always super at but as my pregnancy progressed my body started to give me no choice.
– Stopping anything that felt uncomfortable – this seems obvious but when you’re used to pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone it’s important to remember that shouldn’t be the case during pregnancy.
Why shouldn’t I lie on my back?
This is one you will hear about often during pregnancy but very rarely is it explained. The reason it is important is to avoid the possibility of Supine Hypotensive Syndrome occurring.
Image source unknown
Supine Hypostensive Syndrome can occur when a pregnanct woman is lying supine and the weight of the uterus compresses the inferior vena cava (a large vein carrying blood to the heart) causing a partial or full blockage. This can restrict blood flow to and from the heart. It is more common in the later stages of pregnancy when the uterus weighs more but can happen at any stage and is obviously very dangerous. Supine exercises, for example those performed in a Pilates class, should be adapted using a wedge or cushions under the upper body.
Will doing abdominal exercises hurt my baby?
Baby is well cocooned in there and you doing ab exercises should not harm him or her. However what it is important to be aware of when it comes to ab exercises is what they may do to your actual abdominal muscles. Excess pressure on them can cause diastasis recti which is a separation of the long rectus abdominus muscle that runs down the centre of your stomach.
Image from http://www.diastasisrectirepair.com
This can sometimes happen for a number of other reasons but it’s important to be clever with your exercise choices for the best chance of avoidance. This is where I would encourage women to seek guidance from an instructor who has experience of working with pregnant clients. As mentioned above it’s important not to lie in the supine position and a pregnancy specific instructor will know how to modify specific exercises to make them suitable.
How much cardio is too much?
This was my biggest concern during pregnancy. I’m not a competitive athlete but I like to run 5-10km regularly as well as push myself in circuit and interval type training. I had heard that I shouldn’t allow my heart rate to exceed 140BPM but this didn’t seem like an awful lot and I wondered again how this generalisation could be applied to every woman regardless of her fitness levels coming into pregnancy. Again my suspicions were well founded as this guideline has been replaced with the Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion. This is more applicable to the individual because it’s based on how they feel. When exercising during pregnancy a rating of around 13-14 on the scale is sufficient.
Image from http://www.londonrunningpt.com
Two things I would be aware of when it comes to cardio exercise like running is Pelvic Girdle Pain and Weak Pelvic Floor. Exercising safely shouldn’t cause either but if you find that it aggrevates them then you might want to look at more stationary alternatives like an exercise bike or other low impact types of exercise. If it feels good I encourage women to keep going for as long as they can. Personally I started to wind up my running at about 32 weeks and took brisk walks instead but I did continue these walks right up until the morning I went into labour. Towards the end you have regular medical appointments and should check at each one if the Dr. is happy for you to continue. I’ve said it in posts before and I’ll say it again now, it gets A LOT HARDER to get your fitness fix when you have a new baby so doing as much as you are able to do while you are able to do it is my advice to you.
I highly recommend this book if you want to learn more about pregnancy exercise. Awful picture but a great read if you’re a pregnancy fitness nerd like me. You can find it to purchase here.
Hope you found this helpful. If you have any questions please let me know here.