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Pregnancy & Exercise – Five Questions to ask your PT or Gym

So you’re pregnant.  Maybe you haven’t lost your baby weight from your last pregnancy or you’ve reached that point in pregnancy where your thickening waist and muffin top have yet to morph into a well-defined baby bump and you’re feeling kinda frumpy and blurgh.  Or, you just want to feel your best throughout this pregnancy.  But before you jump straight into a stringent boot camp routine here are some important questions to ask your PT or gym.

Do they have experience training woman during and after pregnancy?

Maintaining physical activity and regular exercise throughout your pregnancy IS important for your physical and emotional health.  But the effects of hormones upon your changing body need to be factored into any pregnancy exercise program.

Relaxed ligaments, unstable joints, separating tummy muscles and changes to your blood volume, heart rate and blood pressure all need to be taken into account before you start exercising while pregnant.  As with everything, if you’re not sure or you haven’t been a regular exerciser before becoming pregnant, get the all clear from your doctor or health care professional before hitting the gym signing up to any exercise program or class.  Also best to check that your PT has qualifications or experience working with pregnancy exercise programs.

Even if you’ve been a regular exerciser before falling pregnant and are super fit and healthy there are a few factors that can actually make intensive exercise a no-no during pregnancy such as placenta previa after 26 weeks, incompetent cervix and pregnancy induced high blood pressure.  Aside from these, regular exercise during pregnancy has no negative effects and lots and lots of positive benefits to both you and your baby

Can I exercise in the 1st trimester?

Yes!  It’s never too early or too late to start pregnancy exercise.  The golden rule of exercise in your first trimester, whether you’re a seasoned exercise pro or a complete newbie is to listen to your body.  If you feel breathless, puffed, queasy, nauseous, dizzy, light headed or experience any painful twinges then stop and tone things back a little.  Some group classes that are designed to have you exercising to the rhythm and beat of music can make it challenging to work to your own pace and comfort so be prepared to switch classes at the gym if you’re struggling.

If you’re working with a personal trainer, it’s probably a good idea to let them in on the pregnancy so that they’re not pushing you beyond what you’re comfortable with and they can modify your training program – if needed.

What’s the best exercise to keep my tummy muscles strong?

The usual tummy toning exercises can cause more harm than good for many woman during pregnancy and lead to further separation of tummy muscles, called diastasis recti or separation of the rectis abdominus muscle.  It’s completely normal to have some separation during pregnancy to make room for a growing baby and the gap usually closes up after pregnancy.  Crunches, side twists, sit ups and planks can worsen diastasis recti, weakening your core and lead to a protruding belly that just won’t shift after pregnancy.

Your personal trainer will work with you to activate your deep core muscles which will help to minimise abdominal separation and also help prevent lower back problems during your pregnancy.   Compression exercises that involve drawing your belly button in towards your spine are the best option for a creating and keeping strong tummy muscles during and after pregnancy.

RELATED: Why not consider a pregnancy massage to help with those sore muscles?

Will exercise help my back pain during pregnancy?

Lower back pain is one of the more common problems experienced during pregnancy and exercise is one of the best ways to prevent it.  However, just like maintaining strong and healthy tummy muscles, some exercises can create or worsen back pain during pregnancy, so it’s best to work with a trainer who’s experienced and knowledgeable about the changes to your body while pregnancy.

The hormone relaxin, gradually softens and literally relaxes all ligaments throughout your body.  Ligaments connect bones to bones and as they relax, your joints become less strong and stable.  Unstable joints are more easily over extended resulting in injury.  By focusing on maintaining strong muscle tone to help support your joints, your PT can help you prevent and minimise lower back and other joint pain during pregnancy.

Can pregnancy exercise cause miscarriage?

As long as you’re not participating in contact sports that could result in blows or hits to your abdomen, pregnancy exercise will not increase your risk of miscarriage.  If you do have a history of miscarriage then EVERYTHING tends to make you feel anxious or nervous once you’re pregnant again.  Regular exercise and physical activity is a great way to keep your mood and emotional wellbeing on an even keel.  Even if you all you do is take a gentle walk for 20-30 minutes per day this can help to boost feel good hormones and take the edge off your anxiety until you feel comfortable and confident to increase your exercise once you’re through the nerve wracking 1st trimester.

Literally whole books have been written about the benefits of pregnancy exercise and regular physical activity for both mother and baby.  Aim to do some sort of physical activity every day – a regular exercise program has benefits that extend way beyond physical fitness and managing weight gain.  Pregnancy exercise can help you form a healthier relationship with your changing body and keep you feeling energised, strong and healthy throughout your pregnancy, birth and beyond.  To learn more about the benefits of pregnancy exercise speak with a personal trainer or gym or specialises in working with women during and after pregnancy.

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Janine Mergler

Janine Mergler is a veteran Queensland teacher, graduating from QUT with a BEd majoring in Social Sciences. After many years in the classroom, Janine moved on to academia. She has proudly trained new generations of teachers in her role as a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Education. She has also worked in the Queensland Government as an education specialist, developing education resources and delivering community awareness programs to help families conserve water. Currently she is the owner and editor of Families Magazine, a publication specifically targeted at parents who value a quality education for children.  Janine leads a team of professionals who write about family lifestyle, early childhood, schools and education information and family-friendly events.

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