When it comes to working out while pregnant, there is countless mis-information out there. Here at Sasquatch, we encourage pregnant women to break down those myths and continue to stay fit throughout pregnancy. Your baby, body and mind will thank you. Here’s a look at six popular myths about prenatal fitness and tips on how to maintain a healthy workout routine while pregnant.
Myth 1: You shouldn’t continue with your fitness routine
People assume that once you’re pregnant you’re no longer able to lift a finger, much less keep up with a healthy exercise routine. Simply put, this is untrue (and unhealthy). You are free to workout from the first through the third trimester.
Rule number one regarding prenatal fitness is whatever you were doing before pregnancy, keep doing it! The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) actually encourages a moderate level of exercising while pregnant. There are a few exceptions to this rule (we will get to that later), but it’s important to maintain the level of fitness you achieved before becoming pregnant. So go ahead and continue exercising during pregnancy.
It doesn’t matter if you are an ultra-fit individual or enjoy moderate workouts you can still workout at the same intensity well into your third trimester if your body allows for it. Just be sure not to push yourself and increase your fitness level, this could endanger your baby or cause you injury. Instead focus on maintaining your current fitness level.
Keeping fit while pregnant not only builds strength to help you through labor, but it also decreases your chances of developing pregnancy depression. Keep those endorphins flowing for both your mental and physical health.
Myth 2: If you never work out before pregnancy, you shouldn’t start once you’re pregnant
If you’re not on a workout routine prior to pregnancy, that doesn’t mean you can’t start! This is the only group of women encouraged to increase your fitness during pregnancy. The key is to start small. Begin with a 10-minute routine three to five times a week and gradually work up to 30 minutes a day.
Myth 3: You should be able to carry a conversation while you work out.
The best way to ensure you’re working out at the right intensity level is to use the Rate of Perceived Exertion Scale (RPE). The scale runs from one to ten with one being sitting on the couch and ten being wanting to puke or pass out. Pregnant women should be somewhere in the middle, at like a five to seven. If you can say one or two sentences with just barely needing to catch your breath, you’re right on track.
Myth 4: Your Baby will be born unhealthy if you work out
A long-term study by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) revealed that moms who maintained a healthy level of exercise while pregnant had healthier children. Yes, there is potential for a lower birth weight if you’ve been working out, but with that comes with lower body fat. Children who developed in a workout-womb were less likely to develop learning disorders, early Type 2 Diabetes and other issues with childhood obesity. As long as the child is born leaner because of prenatal exercise and not smoking or malnutrition, the child is likely to lead a healthier life.
Myth 5: You can’t do high impact workouts
It’s important to understand that prenatal exercise does not cause miscarriages. In fact, first trimester miscarriages are primary caused by the baby not developing properly (having a chromosomal or genetic defect). If you run, jump, do aerobics, or roped climb you can continue to do these activities, even into your third trimester. Participating in high-impact fitness won’t dislodge your embryo.
There are a few exceptions to this rule. First, it’s best to discontinue contact sports like hockey or soccer because the high risk of getting hit hard in the stomach. Activities like bouldering, horseback riding and lead climbing should be done by experts only and these activities may need to be halted once you develop a baby bump. However, that doesn’t mean you still can’t run or do aerobics.
Myth 6: After 20 weeks you are restricted to just yoga
Many pregnant women think they only workouts available to them are yoga after 20 weeks. Although taking prenatal yoga classes from a certified prenatal yoga specialist has shown to reduce labor time, you don’t have to limit yourself to just yoga.
It’s important to note that after 20 weeks a few things should change. Your baby is growing and that throws off your balance. Avoid working out on unstable surfaces and do not do any workouts on your back. Both of these activities are dangerous and can cause injury to both you and the baby.
When you are pregnant, you begin to release a hormone called Relaxin. Relaxin enables joint relaxation, opening you up to joint injuries. In your third trimester the Relaxin, combined with the added weight of the baby, puts you at risk for injury.
At this point you should be working out in a controlled environment like a gym, using stable surfaces (no more Bosu balls), and don’t push your body. Be sure to rest every other day or engage in lower-intensity workouts during this time. You can still lift weights, hit the treadmill and engage in lower impact workouts like top rope climbing or swimming.
Myth 7: You can’t work out your abs while pregnant
Your abs and lower back play an important role in the delivery process. In fact, you should work out your lower back to avoid that awful backpain that comes with pregnancy. It’s best to do this throughout your term.
Working out your abs helps shorten your labor time, so you’ll want to stay on top of ab workouts. However, after 20 weeks, your workout will change. No more ab workouts on your back. You also want to make sure you engage in single side exercises in order to avoid uneven stress on your superficial abdominals. Working out your abs one side at a time helps prevent diastasis recti or the tearing of your ab muscles from the center Linea Alba (the connective tissue that holds your abs together). Acceptable ab exercises after 20 weeks include:
Flags (opposite knee and hand extensions while on your knees)
Inclined seat bicycle crunches
Alternating Leg raises
Myth 8: You can’t lift weights
The rule used to be that you can’t lift anything over eight pounds when pregnant, however that idea got dumped back in the 90s when we discovered that there is no correlation between lifting weights and pregnancy complications. If you lift weights, continue to do so while pregnant. However, be sure to breathe continuously so the baby gets valuable oxygen. If you find yourself holding your breath, decrease the weight load.
Some women love to wear a belly band for added support when the lift. If you weren’t a weight lifter prior to pregnancy, now isn’t the time to start heavy lifting. You can stick with lower weights and higher reps, but remember, you don’t want to overdo it. Consult a pregnancy fitness specialist if you have any questions.
All women need to stay active while they are pregnant, but remember, growing a baby is hard work. It’s perfectly fine to work out three to five days a week but remember to take it easy on some days. You don’t want to overload your muscles or joints. If your body says “take a nap,” then swap your workout from some much-needed rest. The key to staying fit while pregnant is to work out smarter, not harder.