I gave birth to our daughter almost 5 years ago. During that pregnancy I had been a physical therapist and Pilates instructor for 12 years and had treated countless pregnant women. I figured I knew exactly what I should do to stay physically healthy during my pregnancy.
I ran during my first trimester until it just didn’t feel good anymore. I did my regular Pilates routine of crunches, hundreds, roll downs, planks and more planks.
Then, as soon as my doctor released me to exercise after birth, I got back to sprinting up and down the street to help get back into shape and relieve stress.
I now have a bladder prolapse to show for it, and it’s a miracle I don’t have separated abdominals (diastasis recti) as well.
Even with my years of knowledge, I didn’t know the best way to workout during pregnancy. I actually didn’t know what I didn’t know. This is a subject that tends to be left behind in traditional physical therapy and Pilates education, and it’s one I immersed myself in after giving birth in 2013.
I became so passionate about truly helping women during and after pregnancy that I created a Full Home Pregnancy Workout Series for pregnant mamas and a PostPartum Fitness Online Continuing Education Course for physical therapists and Pilates Instructors!
I’m now pregnant with my second baby and am following my new knowledge closely to make sure I don’t go through pelvic floor dysfunction and prolapse like I did the first time.
Of course we want to strengthen and tone and help keep the body strong! Exercise is one of the best things you can do while pregnant and we don’t want to miss that. We do want to follow a few principles to make sure we don’t cause damage during our pregnancy workout.
3 Things to Avoid During Your Pregnancy Workout
Oh how I love planks! As an instructor, therapist and as a student, I adore planks. Front planks, side planks, up/down planks – they are such a great addition to a good workout! But NOT when we are pregnant. Planks use the core, which is great when you aren’t carrying a baby. Once you become pregnant, planks can lead to diastasis recti, a separation of the abdominal muscles. Any pregnancy workout or exercise that uses the rectus abdominus or obliques can contribute to separated abs. While it may be hard, it’s imperative to avoid these exercises while pregnant.
You need to avoid crunches, bicycle crunches, hundreds, roll downs, teasers, coordination and the abdominal series for the same reasons I stated above. They can all contribute to separated abdominals and diastasis recti. Keep in mind you won’t know you have this condition while pregnant! It only appears after giving birth.
3) Running and Jumping
This is a controversial one I know. I love my squat jumps as much as the next person and my HIIT workouts are some of my favorites. You may even feel good enough the first 20 weeks of pregnancy to keep up these exercises. The problem is your pelvic floor. It starts becoming compromised the moment you become pregnant. The hormone relaxin is released, which starts to loosen your joints, especially in your pelvis. This continued loosening – in addition to the weight of the uterus and baby – puts your pelvic floor in a weakened position. When you jump, run or do any pounding exercise, you are asking your pelvic floor to do more work than it can possibly do during pregnancy. It will become stretched and weakened even more, leading to possible pain and incontinence after giving birth. Yes, doctors and professionals will tell you it’s ok to run as long as you feel good. I’m simply telling you from an anatomical and physiological standpoint, the research shows the pelvic floor becomes compromised with these exercises during pregnancy and in the months after.
It might seem hard to avoid these exercises, but think of your future body and future self. Ten months isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things! There are plenty of other exercises you can do to get those endorphins flowing and strengthen your muscles. I am currently 35 weeks pregnant and I continue to walk regularly, lift weights, perform barre exercises do some yoga stretches and perform the third trimester exercises in my Pregnancy Workout Series.
I’m ready to get back to those planks and squat jumps as soon as my postpartum recovery lets me!
You can check out a portion of my full Pregnancy Workout Series below. It’s a snippet of a Prenatal Stretch routine and it feels so good after a long walk, spin class or weight lifting routine!
Remember, this is a special time and one that won’t last forever. Stay strong, be patient with yourself and your body and enjoy it while it lasts (even during the uncomfortable parts :).