As an exercise physiologist and PT, I get a lot of clients who are reluctant to exercise during pregnancy in fear of hurting their unborn baby or themselves. This is a completely understandable concern and I see it as a reflection of someone who is already thinking maternally and wanting the best for their child.
In saying this, exercise during pregnancy shouldn’t be scary or shied away from. In fact, exercise during pregnancy is so beneficial for both you and your baby in so many ways!
There are a few things that should be remembered when exercising during pregnancy!
Doming can happen during pregnancy and also after you have given birth. Doming can happen when you try to contract your core muscles and your abdominal muscles raise up to a point and make a dome like shape at your belly.
This often occurs during exercises such as plank or sit ups. Doming occurs because you are not engaging those deep core muscles which puts too much pressure on your rectus abdominus (the muscles that make up the 6 pack). This straining on your rectus abdominus can lead to abdominal separation which may cause all kinds of problems including chronic back pain, incontinence and herniation (organs pushing through the abdominal wall).
To avoid doming, refrain from doing plank and traditional sit ups and crunches after the first trimester and instead, do exercises that activate the transverse abdominus and the core stabilising muscles. This will allow pressure put on your tummy to be distributed throughout your core instead of all force going towards the rectus abdominus.
2. Rib flare
Most of us are well aware of our tummy expanding during pregnancy however many are unaware that your rib cage also moves and expands to accommodate for your growing uterus and baby. As a result, certain movements can exaggerate this expansion which can place pressure on your abdomen and potentially lead to abdominal separation.
To avoid this, it is important to maintain good posture when lifting arms above your head. See picture below. Notice how in the first photo, my rib cage is flared outwards. In the second picture, my ribcage is tucked and my posture is much better. By focusing on keeping your rib cage tucked, you can help to prevent abdominal separation and putting unnecessary strain on your ab muscles.
3. Training on your back
After around week 18, it becomes dangerous to lay for an extended period of time on your back. This is because in this position, the weight of baby cuts off circulation to the inferior vena cava (the vein that sends blood back to the heart from the lower body). This can be very dangerous for both you and your baby.
To avoid this position during exercise, when doing floor work, rest on your side instead of your back in between sets.
4. Holding your breath
Resistance training has so many benefits during pregnancy but it is important to modify it for pregnancy. Just remember, “just because you could, doesn’t mean you should”. This is not the time to be over loading If you feel yourself holding your breath while lifting, the weight is too heavy for you to be doing while pregnant. If you still want a sweat up, increase the reps and decrease the weight!
This is most dangerous during the first trimester, as it can cause problems with fetal development. In saying this, it is important to be conscious of this throughout your pregnancy journey as it can become dangerous if you become dehydrated.
To avoid overheating, try and train in the mornings or afternoons instead of the middle of the day if you live in a warm climate. Wear cool, breathable clothes and always make sure you have water with you.
Written by Alex Gleeson