How should I exercise during pregnancy?
Everyone knows the benefits of exercise. Pregnancy is a time when exercise is key, for a fit pregnancy and for the benefit of baby too!
How Exercise Can Prepare You for Birth
There is a principle in fitness called the specificity principle. It states that the best way to develop physical fitness for your event or activity is to train the body as closely as possible to the way it will be used then. Thus, the best way to train for running is to run, for swimming it is to swim, and for weightlifting is to lift. So, what about birth?
Birth is a very physical event, but you can’t practice giving birth – so what’s a pregnant woman to do?
You can prepare your body for birth using exercises that mimic labour and birth positions. During pregnancy, if you incorporate labour and birth-specific movements into your workouts, you will prepare your body for when you are actually in labour and be better able to handle the physical demands of certain positions.
The Best Ways to Exercise While Pregnant
Exercise is better for mom and better for baby, but which exercises are safest and the best choice to have a fit pregnancy, while also being pelvic floor friendly and preparing you for birth?
Walking is one of my favourite exercises for pregnancy – especially if your route has some hills. It is great for cardio, great for your glutes and legs (which we want to prepare for upright positions in labour) and great for your pelvic floor!
I recommend walking for 30 minutes every day. You should be able to carry on a conversation without becoming out of breath while you walk.
The buoyancy offered by a pool can be such a welcome relief to the pregnant body. Swimming is a great low impact exercise that involves the whole body.
You can get a great glute and leg workout by standing at the edge of the pool, holding the side and swinging one leg forward and back. You can add paddles to your hands and while standing in water between hip and chest height, swing your arms through the water. Gentle, no-impact cardio will benefit your core and your pelvic floor!
Squatting uses gravity and it opens up the pelvic outlet making more room for your baby, therefore facilitating the process of delivery.
During pregnancy, you need to build up your strength so that you are able to best use this position during labour. Squatting daily is ideal and can be done in a slow and controlled manner.
Squatting is great for your pelvic floor and it is typically most engaged just before you press back up. If you can add in a voluntary pelvic floor contraction just before you start to press back up and hold it as you do so, you will be training your pelvic floor and your heart!
Hovering is a great pelvic floor exercise, a good glute builder, a great inner thigh toner. It encourages space in the pelvis for birth and prepares you for labour and birth positions that have you kneeling or on all fours.
Hovering is also a great restorative exercise postpartum. Add this exercise back in at around week 5 or 6 and you can modify the width of your knees depending on how you feel.
Side-Lying Bent Leg Raises
The side-lying birth position is one of the best in terms of preserving the perineum. It can also be used to slow things down if labour is progressing really quickly. You can be fully on your side or you can prop yourself up with pillows or the bed to angle your body slightly and get gravity helping out a bit too.
In labour, you will have someone holding your leg for you but it still helps to have strength and endurance in a position that you may be in for a while.
Postpartum, add this exercise in at week three or four.
If you don’t already have one, invest in a stability ball (also called a birth ball or an exercise ball). You can use it in pregnancy, in labour, and you will want one postpartum as it is one of the best ways to calm your little one. The gentle rhythm you find when holding your baby and gently bouncing up and down is good exercise for you and pure soothing bliss to your babe.
Postpartum, this exercise is better saved until six weeks or more once the perineum has healed and you feel comfortable sitting on the ball.
Core breathing supports a healthy heart because it encourages you to breathe optimally, which in turn means better circulation and better oxygen delivery to you and your baby. It also promotes a calm, meditative state, which helps reduce stress and anxiety.
Staying fit and active while pregnant contributes to shorter pushing times in labor, a quicker recovery postpartum and increased confidence overall.
We are Here to Help!
If you have any questions about pregnancy, and exercise programs through pregnancy and beyond, speak with one of our Pelvic Floor Professionals and get clarity on all the options available to you.