As a personal trainer, I’ve trained many women pre and post pregnancy and in my opinion your best chance of having a healthy pregnancy, delivery and recovery is to ensure you’re already on a good fitness program before getting pregnant. Most moms are unhappy with their tummies post pregnancy. Clients will tell me how their stomach was flat until after they had their children and now they are having trouble reducing it. Unfortunately, a flat stomach does not always indicate a strong core (abdominals and pelvic floor). If you have never done anything to strengthen you’re pelvic floor, abdominals, back and hips then you are setting yourself up for a difficult post natal recovering.
On the other hand, if a woman enters into pregnancy with an awareness of proper posture and strong core muscles then she will be able to adapt appropriately as her body starts to change. As her belly grows, she will know to keep her glutes strong to counterbalance the pressure on her back. She will naturally engage her pelvic floor muscles and use her lungs to their full capacity when performing daily tasks. Finally, she will be aware of keeping her neck and shoulders relaxed and open even when her body is tired or sore. There are so many benefits to having been active prior to pregnancy: you have increased endurance and energy for managing labour and birth and research shows women who exercise pre-pregnancy gain less weight than non-exerciser while staying within a healthy weight gain range. In addition, pre-pregnancy exercise is linked to improved body image and mood and is an essential intervention for women’s psychological health during pregnancy.
So what level of fitness is needed to aid in a healthy pregnancy? Firstly you want to be at a healthy weight prior to getting pregnant. The key is a ‘healthy’ weight, thinner is not necessarily better. Being in top shape for a marathon with too low body fat can have a negative effect on your chances of conceiving. If body weight and body fat are either too high or too low, estrogen and progesterone concentrations in the body go down,” explains Nancy Williams, Sc.D., an associate professor of kinesiology at the Pennsylvania State University in University Park. “An adequate estrogen level is needed to stimulate ovulation.” Underweight women can have regular menstrual bleeding, but the cycles are likely to be anovulatory, which means ovulation doesn’t occur. http://www.fitpregnancy.com/pregnancy/getting-pregnant/fat-and-fertility. Other studies show, that if you enter into pregnancy with an already high BMI, a measure of body fat percentage, you are likely to have a higher gestational weight gain. In addition, excess weight adds additional strain on the joints, ligaments and muscle that will already be attempting to accommodate your growing belly.
Equally important to being at a healthy weight is that you engage in activities that strengthen your pelvic floor (the muscles involved in pushing during labour and bladder control). A stable and strong abdominal wall and back muscles are essential to prevent injury and pain. Finally, maintaining your flexibility through your hip joint and rib cage are also important in preventing postural strain.
So what exercises are appropriate during pregnancy? Check out Part 2.