I am almost finished my Ante and Post Natal personal training course and it really has been so interesting and an absolute eye opener! To give us an idea of what it was like to be pregnant and how awkward it can be we wore rucksacks on our front filled with bottles of water. Simple tasks like walking on a treadmill suddenly become so much more tiring and the go-to training exercises became restricted and needed to be adapted, with special consideration being given to particular muscle groups which need to be strengthened or stretched. It was almost enough to put me off!!
Women really are amazing. My own mum carried me around for 9 months and has put up with me for 30+ years too, what a saint! All my mummy friends have gone through this and stayed so strong and most importantly, many of them have stayed active!
There are so many old wives’ tales out there that we discussed on my training course, some of which are hilarious!! Don’t jump or run during pregnancy or you may lose your baby, as though your baby is just going to fall out as soon as you start running!! One lady was even told by her grandmother that she shouldn’t clean the windows as the arm action above the head back and forth could wrap the baby’s cord around its neck! The general message from these old wives’ tales are that exercise is bad and a pregnant woman should just put her feet up for 9 months and wait for the baby to arrive which is a load of rubbish!!
Thankfully most women now realise that there is no truth in these tales and understand the importance of keeping active throughout your pregnancy. Specific benefits can be seen during the pregnancy and post-delivery. In the early stages of pregnancy women can feel very nauseous and tired. Exercise can help to reduce or alleviate these symptoms of pregnancy1. It also maintains bone density and decreases the risk of gestational diabetes by up to 55%1. An increase of energy levels will also occur from exercise and it will help control weight gain1. Although weight gain is essential during pregnancy, excessive weight gain can lead to complications in the pregnancy and can also increase back pain1. Exercise will promote better posture during pregnancy which again can help with back, neck and joint pain which are associated with poor posture1. It will also improve digestion, increase oxygen supply to the body, improved sleep, reduce swelling which can occur in the feet and ankles during pregnancy and give back a sense of control and wellbeing when you may feel your body is being taken over by the baby growing inside you! The big benefits are that it has been shown that fitter mothers tend to have a shorter and easier labour, and babies born from mothers who exercise regularly tend to be leaner1! If muscles remain toned and fitness levels are maintained during pregnancy it will mean for a quicker return to pre-pregnancy weight and fitness for the mother1.
The benefits of exercise in pregnancy are well documented but I can completely understand why a woman may be cautious. Many couples go through an emotional rollercoaster to have a baby. Some try to conceive for a long time and even have the added stress of IVF treatment so when a woman does fall pregnant it may be tempting to wrap up in cotton wool and not do anything that could jeopardise things.
This is why it is SO IMPORTANT to seek out advice from someone who is actually qualified to train someone who is pregnant. There are always risks and it’s scary what you can see at the gym or even on social media. Pregnant women hanging from their arms from bars doing leg raises and knee lifts, muscle-ups, on the squat rack trying for a personal best in the third trimester, the list is endless! Many women don’t realise the risk and it is even scarier when you see a personal trainer by her side! There is no one size fits all plan for pregnant women as so much depends on fitness pre-pregnancy and whether there are any complications or concerns which would limit physical activity during pregnancy. Exercises need to be adapted to make them more appropriate during pregnancy for each woman.
Please please please make sure you check your trainer’s qualifications and look for specialised training in Ante and Post Natal. Don’t just accept that they have worked with pregnant women in the past, they should be qualified! That way you can maintain your fitness throughout your pregnancy reaping all the benefits whilst avoiding unnecessary risk and potential post-delivery issues.
- The Complete Guide to Pregnancy and Fitness – Morc Coulson and Sarah Bolitho 2012.