Pregnancy and exercise haven’t always gone hand in hand, there used to be a bit of caution around exercising not only your core during pregnancy but just in general. It was thought it would stop the baby getting enough oxygen, it would increase the risk of miscarriage and put your own health at risk, now while some of these issues do have some legitimacy, overall you will actually thrive if you are exercising throughout your pregnancy.
Prenatal training helps the mum maintain lean muscle mass, it helps the posture and reduces postural related injuries like lower back pain and it helps with post pregnancy recovery. Finally the one major bonus of keeping fit during your pregnancy? It has been shown to aid labour and delivery which should be enough of a benefit to get out there and train.
As we stated in the previous pregnancy post on myths please seek to get the OK from your GP before beginning any exercise programme. If you have previous experience in training then you can carry on but if you haven’t done any form of strength training then do not jump into a programme now, there are still things you can do though so please ask for help. If at any point during exercise you feel you need to stop, then do. Don’t try to listen to that voice in the back of your head telling you to push on, your body knows what it is doing so please listen to it.
What’s happening inside
During the first trimester you may have a higher level of nausea due to the influx of hormones and you may be susceptible to pain in your joints due to another hormone called relaxin which will increase as you go through each trimester. This helps loosen ligaments in the body to allow delivery of your baby, this pain is usually felt around the pelvis and hips. Other symptoms you may experience during this period could be exhaustion, headaches, faintness, sore breasts, vomiting and mood swings.
Progesterone, AKA the pregnancy hormone, levels will rise in the first trimester as this helps ready the lining of the uterus for the fertilized egg. It does this by causing the smooth muscle in the uterus to relax and inhibit its contracting which allows the egg to sit.
Estrogen is the partner in crime to progesterone and this helps with the development of the foetus. It does this by helping stimulate the adrenal gland which enables it to increase hormone production along with helping the mother’s uterus and allows it to respond to other hormones.
HGc, Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, is the first major hormone that will show as this is the hormone that is picked up by pregnancy tests! In a normal pregnancy, it isn’t unusual for your HCg levels to double every 2 days for the first 10 weeks as this helps keep the Progesterone and Estrogen levels under control until the placenta is able to perform this function itself. HGc is thought to be behind a few symptoms of pregnancy most notably are a sensitive bladder and morning sickness, but this should ease off as you edge towards your second trimester.
What you should be focusing on is building as strong a foundation as possible, not just with all core exercises but by improving your posture and your strength in both arms and legs this will help you throughout and after the pregnancy ensuring you are best equipped to deal with motherhood in the best way possible. As long as you stick to where you feel comfortable you should be able to continue with a gym programme for the majority of your pregnancy. Your body knows best and if something doesn’t feel right your body will let you know, but there are absolutely no issues with weight training and core work throughout your first trimester.
Benefits of core training
One massive myth with training while pregnant is that you should stop core training, this is not correct and you can work your core in multiple ways throughout the pregnancy although certain exercises will be a no go once you reach certain points of your pregnancy, but for now you are good to continue as you were, as long as you feel comfortable one big point though is that crunches are usually out after around 8 weeks so try to focus on other core exercises that target the pelvic floor and also your transverse abdominals.
Exercises like Kegels, Planks, Pallof press’, supermans, arm & leg extensions, TRX work and being seated on gym balls can help strengthen your abdominal muscles and these can lead to a number of benefits;
-Provide back support
-Improves your posture
-Help support the growing baby
-Minimise Diastasis recti (ab separation)
-Help push the baby out during birth
-Get back to training quicker post pregnancy
-Decrease likelihood of incontinence and pelvic floor prolapse
Ensuring you keep a strong body is essential and these are a few basic ones you can do in the gym that will help build strength and help you throughout the pregnancy. Of course, there are other exercises you can do but please consult with a qualified personal trainer who is qualified in pre and post natal training
Seated row + Lat pulldown = stronger back, improved posture, reduced slumped shoulders
Chest press = Muscular balance and strength in the arms
Biceps & Triceps, cable machine = Stronger arms to cope with carrying your baby and all the accessories
Leg extension/hamstring curl = Stronger legs to help with energy and deal with increased weight
Finally ensure you keep up your cardio training, obviously as you go through each trimester the amount you can do will decrease but exercises like walking and swimming are fantastic for mums to be. I hope this helps you on your first few steps towards parenthood and we will upload a post for the next 3 stages to help you through.