With all of the changes that women experience during pregnancy, female athletes may find it difficult to continue with their normal exercise routine. Many women have concerns on whether it is safe to exercise during pregnancy. In an uncomplicated pregnancy, exercise is not only considered safe, it is highly encouraged.
Benefits to exercising during pregnancy
There are plenty of benefits to exercise during pregnancy, whether you are an elite athlete, or someone who is new to exercise. The benefits can be both medical and psychological, with most experiencing a sense of wellbeing associated with exercise. Continuing exercise will help you to maintain your current body composition, and it will help to decrease the chance of excess weight gain during pregnancy. In addition, it may help decrease the risk of developing gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia.
Goals for exercise during pregnancy
Goals for exercise during pregnancy can include building or maintaining strength, exercising in a way that is safe for both you and your unborn child, preparing the body for labor and delivery and promoting recovery postpartum.
Ideally, every woman should be participating in some form of exercise during pregnancy (when safe to do so). The exercise program during pregnancy is developed based upon the following:
- Changes in the body including joint laxity, widening of the pelvis and pubic symphysis, shifting of the center of gravity and weight gain
- Positions that are safe for Mom and baby
- Strengthening muscles responsible for supporting and stabilizing the changing female body
- Training (practice of activating and relaxing) muscles in preparation for labor, delivery and the postpartum period
The main components of the pregnancy exercise program
- Core strengthening and stabilization
- Pelvic floor muscle training and strengthening
- Breath training
- Leg strengthening
Our guidelines on exercise during pregnancy
This routine is designed to build or maintain strength and promote wellness for both mother and baby throughout pregnancy.
Changes in body
• Relaxin levels peak at week 12
• Pubic symphysis widens week 10-12
• Ligamentous laxity in sacroiliac joints, pubic symphysis, peripheral joints
Exercises: (those in orange incorporate pelvic floor activation)
• Transversus abdominus (TVA) activation
• Pelvic floor activation
• Dead bug
• Bridge on physioball
• Sidelying hip abduction*
• Side plank/modified side plank*
• Side plank with clam shell*
Changes in body
• Relaxin levels decrease until week 17 and stabilize
• Center of gravity shift
Exercises: (*continue starred exercises from first trimester)
• Bird dog
• Quadruped plank
• Modified plank
• Seated alternating arm and leg on physioball
• Squat with band
• Wall slide with physioball and medicine ball
• Band walks
Changes in body
• Edema/fluid increase week 32+
• Weight gain
• Transient osteoporosis
Exercises: (continue with all exercises from second trimester and *starred first trimester)
• Single leg fire hydrant
• Step ups
Is it safe to continue exercising once pregnant?
With few exceptions, it is safe to continue exercise that you were doing prior to being pregnant. Aerobic activities such as walking, running, swimming, and cycling are all excellent ways to maintain strength. Yoga is an excellent way to preserve flexibility during pregnancy, with care to modify positions that are uncomfortable or that might increase risk of falling. Of course, just as you would take care of yourself during and after exercise, it is important to remember that you are caring not only for yourself but for your unborn child. Be sure to stay well hydrated and avoid overheating. Whatever exercise you continue or decide to start, be sure to talk with your doctor about it.