Preparing for Pregnancy: Prenatal Fitness
Learn About Fitness Through The Different Stages of Pregnancy in this Guest Blog Post By Nicole Race of Elevate St. Pete
Exercise, nourishing nutrition, and personal care are vital to both the health of mom and baby. The ability to remain (or become!) strong and healthy doesn't end when you enter the chapter of motherhood. In fact, I believe you can not only be strong and fit before, during and after pregnancy, but that being strong is a critical part of a safe and healthy pregnancy.
Of course your fitness goals shift during different stages of your life, like pre and postpartum… but working towards the healthiest you during those seasons should remain a priority.
Today I’d like to discuss the many reasons why strength training is an important part of Mom and baby’s health and wellness during pregnancy.
How Prenatal Strength Training and Exercise Can Prepare You for Delivery
I always say that you’ll never be in a situation where you regret being strong. And being strong through your pregnancy and delivery is extremely beneficial. Many women who exercise throughout their pregnancy report lower rates of perceived exertion during labor than women who did not exercise and strength train during their pregnancy. Delivery is a big, max effort event for both mom and baby! You should be as physically prepared for it as you can. This means having the strength and stamina to get through it.
Women who exercise during pregnancy experience shorter labors, fewer complications both during pregnancy and delivery and have less chances of preterm labor. The stronger and healthier you are in general, the faster you bounce back and recover from challenging events and stress. Moms tend to experience shorter stays in the hospital if they exercise during pregnancy.
Busting the Myths Around Strength Training and Pregnancy
One of the myths that is perpetuated regarding strength training or physical activity in general during pregnancy is the fact that you’re more unstable and have an increased risk to injury because of the instability.
While our bodies are preparing us for labor, we produce and release a hormone called Relaxin. This helps our ligaments and tendons to be more flexible as the baby grows and helps prepare our bodies for delivery. Because of this, all of our joints become a little more lax, including your spine.
Strength training actually makes you more stable! So in this case, not only is this a myth but the opposite is actually true: Strength training in pregnancy helps to tone and strengthen your muscles providing added stability and combating the effects of relaxin in a healthy manner.
Many women experience debilitating back and pelvic pain throughout pregnancy. One of the reasons for this pain is due to weakness and instability of your core and hips. The bigger your baby gets, the more likely your stomach is going to pull your posture away from a more neutral spine position and start to tip your pelvis forward. This leads to women experiencing a more severe curvature of the spine in their lower back. We can combat this by keeping our backs and hips strong through appropriate strength training based on the stage of your pregnancy.
It is important to note that pregnant mothers interested in adding prenatal exercise and strength training should seek the guidance of trained professionals, especially if there is any anxiety over the potential side effects (positive or negative).
The Importance of Core Strength During Pregnancy and in Postpartum Recovery
Another major benefit to strength training during pregnancy is to reduce the severity of your Diastasis Recti. Core training that is prescribed based on the individual stage of pregnancy, strength and skill level is proven to set women up for a better postpartum recovery.
Core strength may not mean what you think it means. It doesn’t mean doing endless sit ups, crunches and leg raises so you can see your abdominals. Core strength means creating balanced pressure from the inside out with your breath and core muscles. It all works in harmony. You’ll want to focus on learning how to breathe properly with your diaphragm and stay away from any movement that causes any coning of your abdominal muscles or outward pressure in your belly. My prenatal clients focus a lot on various carries and modified holds and plank variations to build and maintain their core strength.
The Benefits of Prenatal Strength Training and Exercise for Your Baby
So what about the benefits for Baby? Exercising during pregnancy has many lasting benefits for your children. It’s well known that healthy moms have healthier babies but babies whose mothers stayed active and strong during pregnancy tend to perform better in many areas of their health and development.
We now have studies that show exercise during pregnancy may program your baby’s heart rate to resist cardiovascular problems later in life. This is due to development of stronger blood vessels.
It’s also well documented that babies whose mothers exercise regularly during pregnancy have higher APGAR scores and can better handle the stress of labor and delivery.
And this study also suggests that babies may develop better motor skills, at a faster pace. We also know that previous research has found that higher motor skills in infants are linked with greater physical activity later in life.
You’re quite literally setting your children up for their healthiest outcome potential by staying active and strong during your pregnancy!
Prenatal Exercise for Health in Mind and Body
Lastly, pregnancy can be really hard on us moms mentally and emotionally! Being sedentary and inactive as an adult leads to poor mood, depression, low energy, stress and so much more. That can easily become more compounded during pregnancy. Participating in a structured and intentional exercise program while pregnant has a lot of psychological benefits. Working out helps you manage stress, blow off steam and has a powerful ability to change your mental state.
Maybe it provides a little bit of “you time”... maybe it’s your social time with friends and other gym goers.
Whether you’re preparing to become pregnant, are currently with child or are postpartum, it's always a great time to prioritize your strength and fitness. Exercise is appropriate (and necessary) during all seasons or your life.
If you’re wanting to get started on your fitness journey, I encourage you to seek out and work with a well qualified fitness professional to start your journey in a safe way.
Remember, strength is never a weakness.