There are some precautions (see our checklist at the end of this article), and if you are embarking on an exercise program for the first time you should see your doctor first. If you are in reasonable health and fitness when you fall pregnant it makes sense to train for the physical demands of being heavier, going through labour, and the physical toll of having a newborn.
Whilst training while pregnant is perfectly safe, do not do anything that makes you uncomfortable. If you are not confident training on your own, consult a pre-natal qualified personal trainer at www.calmbirth.com.au or www.allaboutbirth.com for more information.
Stability During your pregnancy you need to work on joint stability - especially your hips and back. As your pregnancy progresses your centre of gravity rises and your joints become loose. Stability training will help prevent falls, as well as protect against back pain once the baby is born.
Weights When you are strong, things like picking up the washing basket takes less effort than if you were weak. In this way, a 6-10lb baby will be harder for you to manage if you are weak than if you strength trained during your pregnancy. We do not mean the weightlifting of a muscle builder! You need to do specific movements that will adapt your body to the sudden physical stress of holding and lifting a baby.
Fitness Good fitness means you will recover quicker from the birth, and you will generally need less sleep (even though it may not feel like it!). This means you can cope with the persistent demands of you new baby better. Appropriate fitness training is any rhythmical muscle movement, such as walking, swimming, and cycling. The intensity should be enough to get you warm and breathless.
Mental preparation While fitness and strength will help you physically, you should be mentally prepared for the pain and process of labour. There are a number of organisations that use hypnotherapy, meditation, yoga, and visualisation techniques to assist you in managing the labour - drug free! See www.galileopt.com.au)
Five precautions for training when pregnant1) Be comfortable - if you’re uncomfortable find a different exercise that works the same muscles. For example, if push ups hurt your back, lie on an incline bench and do a bench press with dumbbells (a fitness professional can assist you with exercise selection
2) Stay cool - if you’re getting hot, stop! Park yourself in front of a fan or train outside where you can get some air over your skin.
3) Breathe - regular deep breathing will keep your blood pressure and heart rate within safe parametres. Holding your breath while doing weights will increase your internal pressure, and running out of breath while doing your fitness training will starve the fetus of oxygen. It is fine to get your heart rate up, just make sure you get enough air in to share around!
4) Head over heart, hands under heart - this is a simple guideline to make sure your blood pressure stays moderate with any exercise that you chose.
5) Drink! - you will naturally use water and sweat while training, just make sure to replace it.
I have been training Pre- and Post-Natal women for 11yrs. This is my first experience of actually being pregnant, and there are a couple of other points that i hadn't thought of when i was simply training others:
1) Being heavy is tiring! I am making more effort to strength train just so i can continue to function. Having said that, i am asleep for 10hrs every night (i used to get by on 8).
2) Being bigger is embarrassing - well, i am self-conscious about it. As a result my posture is suffering, and i have started a program to try and keep my shoulders back (they were creeping forward and the resulting tight muscles were giving me headaches)
3) Any weak spots will be exacerbated with the release of relaxin. The hormones designed to loosen your joints to make it possible to pass a watermelon through your hoo-ha also increase the flexion in my weak bits - resulting in pretty severe pain. I have enlisted the combined help of a chiro (http://www.bodymindwellnesscentre.comau/) and physio who's efforts mean that i can still work!
Hat's off to all those women who have been before me. I am still as stubborn as before, but i have a new respect for the hundreds of women who have persevered with their training through pregnancy (notable mentions to Tonia, who came 10 days overdue and itching like crazy, Emma who called me while in labor to cancel her session, and Jenny who turned up for a session 10days after giving birth - you are inspiring!!)www.galileopt.com.au