Founder of the Louisa Drake method talks exercising when expecting
People have misconceptions around working out when pregnant and many women stop exercising altogether as they are frightened they might do themselves harm.
There can be some rather unspecific guidance from doctors and some of the recommendations given are intended for the general population and not someone who is already conditioned. These considerations, coupled with the evolution of fitness in general, make it challenging to know what to do.
As recommended in the RCOG (Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists) Statement, Exercise in Pregnancy, women should be encouraged to participate in some aerobic and strength-conditioning exercises to maintain their fitness levels, engaging in 30mins of aerobic activity each day, around three and a half hours each week. However, it is important to ensure that they do not seek to achieve peak athletic levels. Regular physical activity during pregnancy maintains and improves physical fitness, helps with weight management, reduces the risk of gestational diabetes in obese women and enhances overall wellbeing.
A measure of the intensity of physical activity is the ‘talk test’. If women are able to maintain a conversation while exercising without feeling out of breath or uncomfortable, this is the right level of activity for them. Be aware that you will need to alter your goals when pregnant – you want to keep your body nice and strong but your focus must be on staying healthy and strong for birth and your new role as a mum. If you maintain a level of fitness throughout pregnancy you are more likely to have an easier birth, be more comfortable in your body and in less pain, leading up to, during and after birth.
You can keep your body tight/toned in areas such as your arms, back, legs and glutes but accept that certain areas, especially the tummy, hips and chest will grow and soften for the baby due to the hormone, Relaxin. Its main purpose is to increase space in the pelvis/around the hips for the baby to grow and to be birthed. Special focus is placed on core integrity and building a ‘fit’ pelvic floor. During pregnancy a ‘fit’ pelvic floor helps counteract the extra weight and stress of the growing baby and uterus.
Two simple exercises to start off with at the Cat/Cow Pose and Tricep Dips with inner thigh and glute squeeze:
1. Cat/Cow to warm up and connect to breathe
- A great exercise to reset the body, mind and connect to the breath.
- Inhale to prepare. Exhale to round the back and draw the belly towards the spine as you flex. Relax head and look to your belly.
- Inhale to extend the spine, tilt the pelvis and eye line forwards and slightly up.
2. Tricep Dips with inner thigh and glute squeeze
- Using a mini-stability ball in-between the knees strengthens the inner thighs and abdominals. Focus on using an exhale breathe as you squeeze the ball.
- Exhale to lift hips and seat/bottom off the mat.
- Inhale to bend at the elbows and working the triceps, keeping the hips still.
- Exhale to straighten arms and squeeze the ball and lift the hips.