Advice Pregnancy

MYTH BUSTING: Exercise in pregnancy

Written by: Ginette Brandon-Smith
prenatal exercising with W8 GYM and personal trainer Hayley
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IT’S WHAT’S INSIDE THAT COUNTS – PRE & POST NATAL SERIES.

There is never a more confusing time for looking for and accepting advice than when you’re pregnant. There are hundreds of do’s and don’ts and lots of outdated information surrounding exercise in pregnancy from external sources and for a lot of us, closer to home too.

One of the most confusing subjects is exercise during pregnancy. What not to do, what to do, what’s safe, what’s OK, what’s enough and what’s too much.

For a lot of us it is totally overwhelming and that’s completely understandable. We are constantly served up content via our social media feeds that shows us what we ‘should’ be doing and how we ‘should’ look throughout our pregnancy and for a lot of women already battling against surging hormones and changes to our bodies that we don’t understand this can be negative and confusing.

So here at W8 GYM we’ve teamed up with Ginette from ‘Powered from within PT’ she specialises in personal training for all women but has a huge amount of experience working with pre and post-natal women and has seen most worries and fears.

In our first article, we start by trying to dispel some of the famous myths that surround pre and post-natal bodies and also safe exercising during pregnancy, and after. There is no doubt that every single body and every single female that enters and goes through pregnancy is different, so there is never a one size fits all solution, and there shouldn’t be because we are all unique, but there’s definitely some ways to help simplify some of the information we hear and see.

Myth 1: It’s not safe to workout during your early weeks of pregnancy

You can workout during your first trimester. There is no evidence to say that miscarriages are caused by exercise during pregnancy or that exercising has any negative effects on your baby – the advice has changed dramatically over the last 20 years so you may receive some funny looks from aunties and granny’s but don’t be dissuaded.

This as with all pregnancy-based exercise questions comes with a caveat.

If you haven’t exercised prior to becoming pregnant, it’s not a good time to start intense workouts but if you’ve been working out prior to getting pregnant then you can carry on as normal for as long as you feel capable of doing it, but it is so important to not pressure yourself into doing it if you don’t feel like it. The first trimester can come with a huge array of side effects that can make wanting to do exercise really hard – morning sickness being a key one – be kind to yourself. There is no competition with social media here and no judgments. Your pregnancy, your journey and no one can tell you how you feel.

If you want to become more active during your pregnancy than you were prior to getting pregnant then there are some more low impact exercises that we would advocate such as yoga, Pilates, swimming & walking – but always have a chat with your GP or midwife before starting.

Myth 2: After the first trimester, you shouldn’t lie on your back

This myth exists because after about 20 weeks if you lie on your back for long periods of time you can put pressure on the vena cava – this is the main vein that carries blood back to the heart—and the foetus. If this happens, it can cause dizziness and lightheadedness.

So, without a trained personal trainer it is advised that you don’t try and perform supine-based exercises after this time just in case, our advice is to listen to your body! You’ll know.

The beauty of home workout equipment like the W8 GYM is that you can perform so many exercises using the box stood up, so this shouldn’t limit your exercises or where on your body you can work.

Myth 3: Abdominal based exercises will lead to ab separation during pregnancy

So firstly, what is ab separation or diastasis recti? It is what it says on the tin, your ab muscles, or more precisely the connecting tissue between your abs separate to accommodate for the baby. We will shout this from the rooftops if we have to – IT IS TOTALLY NORMAL AND YOU DIDN’T DO ANYTHING WRONG TO CAUSE IT – some studies say that over two-thirds of women will get it; in my experience, it affects 99% of women in differing degrees.  You cannot stop it. You cannot control it and it doesn’t matter whether you had a 6 pack before you got pregnant or not – it makes no odds – if your baby needs more room your body will make it, and what an incredible thing for it to do!

It has the potential though to cause you some associated issues such as pelvic floor pain and back pain – your core is the most important muscle group during and after pregnancy and it is under a huge amount of strain for a long period of time so it’s no wonder it starts to show signs of wear as you enter into the latter stages of your pregnancy.  Instead of beasting it, we need to look after it and support it as much as possible.

Although core workouts are not bad for you during pregnancy, we’d much rather advocate maintaining and looking after your core muscles by encouraging them to remain strong and engaging them properly during exercise rather than trying to isolate them in exercises and strengthen them beyond where they were before.

One of the best ways to do this is through your breathing and we’ve put together a video showing the best ways to breath when exercising during pregnancy – from first trimester all the way through to the third trimester and beyond. You can watch this here

Myth 4: Your body will just ‘bounce back’ after pregnancy

How many times have we heard this? And how many times has it made women feel like they’re failing after birth when their body doesn’t just ‘bounce back’ it’s a term that I wish I could ban from our vocabulary. It doesn’t matter what your age, height, weight, level of activity prior to getting pregnant or during – pregnancy and birth is a huge thing for any human body to go through. You cannot predict how it will cope, what kind of birth you will have or how you will recover, so be gentle with yourself and please look after yourself whilst in your pregnancy.

  1. Eat well
  2. Keep active if you can
  3. Be kind to yourself
  4. Look after your mental health as much as your physical health.

Expecting too much of ourselves is the biggest issue I see with all the women I see during and after pregnancy when it comes to exercise and it can lead to injury and lifelong problems if it’s not managed properly. After both of my boys I fell foul to this too, it is natural when we are put under so much pressure as women but there’s very little support or education to ensure we understand what is totally normal.

There is no such thing as ‘bounce back’; that story you heard about the girl who got straight back into her size 8 jeans – I promise you; I’ve never met her.

For 9 months your body has produced a whole organ (the placenta), it’s grown every single cell of a new human, it’s increased your blood volume by double, twisted and shifted most of your main organs to accommodate another human AND then been through birth whether that be vaginal or through a c-section or sometimes both!

Give it time. Look after it. Be patient and be realistic. Yes, pregnancy and birth can be a beautiful thing, but let’s not sugar-coat it ladies because society often wants us to – it is tough physically and mentally and the pressure we feel afterwards to have the body we’re ‘meant’ to have can be debilitating, so let’s just throw that in the bin where it belongs, right now.

Myth 5: Don’t lift weights

Now across exercising for females there is still a ridiculous notion about lighting weight and it making you look bulky or manly (another article for another day right there!) – this opinion is thankfully fading slowly, and we wish it would hurry up! Unfortunately, during pregnancy this myth still exists and is as prominent as ever in a different way.

Strengthening muscles safely or maintaining existing muscles during pregnancy can have huge benefits such as stabilising the lower back and hips to assist with childbirth and help with post-birth recovery.

There are obviously things to avoid though whilst to exercise safely during pregnancy:

Do avoid straining.

Do avoid lifting heavier weights than you did pre-pregnancy

Do look out for light headedness or dizziness

Do avoid bench-based weightlifting where you are on your back

Working with resistance rather than free weights can be a great way of maintaining weight workouts whilst not overextending already more lax joints (your body does this incredible thing where it releases relaxin which allows the ligaments to stretch more than before and things all become a bit looser – incredible! But does mean you’re more prone to injury)

We have resistance bands workouts for all stages of pregnancy that can be viewed here. The W8 GYM comes with 3 different strengths of resistance bands which mean you can adapt and change based on your pregnancy stage and also day to day based on other symptoms or things happening, because let’s face it during pregnancy your body changes daily – some days you will have more energy than others and that’s completely normal.

1st & 2nd trimester resistance band exercises

3rd trimester resistance band exercises

Myth 6: You will pee when you sneeze and jump after birth.

One of the least spoken about but most important subjects I believe is bladder control and pelvic floor strength. Here in the UK our NHS (although incredible in so many ways) is in my opinion chronically bad at helping women during and after birth with their pelvic floor strength and associated issues.

Ladies, it may be common, but it’s not normal to pee every time you sneeze. It has become a bit of a joke, but it’s anything but and it doesn’t have to be your reality after having children.

It’s estimated that over 9.6 million women in the UK suffer with bladder incontinence and over 42% of women wait over 15 years before seeking treatment! 

Exercising in the correct way and engaging and strengthening your pelvic floor can go a long way to rectifying these issues – it doesn’t have to be permanent and there is absolutely nothing embarrassing about it you are most definitely not alone and there are ways to help that don’t involve pads or operations.

Prevention is most definitely the best cure in this case, so if you’re pregnant and wondering how you can keep your pelvic floor strong please take a look at our video which talks about breathing during exercise as this gives you the optimum way to strengthen and engage with those deep muscles that so often, we forget.

So hopefully that’s gone so way to dispelling some of the myths you may have heard surrounding exercise during pregnancy – we’re on a mission here at W8 GYM to make things clearer and be real about exercising pre and post birth – if you’ve got any questions about what’s been covered in this article or have any other questions you’d like answered, please email us: [email protected] and one of our PT’s will come back to you.

Written By:

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Ginette Brandon-Smith

Founder & PT at Powered From Within PT

About the author:

Female centric personal trainer with a specialism in pregnancy and postnatal exercise. Ensuring you know how to exercise during your pregnancy is extraordinarily important in protecting both you and your baby and preparing yourself for birth. Rehabilitation and healing post birth is very important for pelvic floor and core health, regaining strength and realigning posture.