How to exercise while pregnant

How to Exercise While Pregnant

3 min read

If exercise was a big part of your life pre-pregnancy, you may be wondering how you can safely incorporate it to benefit your newly pregnant status.

In the 15 years that I’ve been teaching pilates, yoga and fitness, I’ve worked with thousands of women on their journeys to motherhood and beyond. I’ve spent hundreds of hours studying and learning from some of the most informed practitioners and researchers around the world. I would love to share with you how I coach my clients throughout their pregnancies. 

Is exercise safe during pregnancy?

Absolutely! But it needs to be modified according to which stage you’re at. Your exercise goals during pregnancy may shift as well, as you attempt to mitigate some of the common side effects of pregnancy itself. (These include backaches, constipation, bloating, swelling, increased tiredness and decreased energy levels—all of which can be helped with regular exercise.)

What exercises should you focus on during pregnancy?

Throughout all trimesters, gentle walking, swimming and prenatal-specific exercise classes are fantastic. These forms of exercise will encourage blood flow, which reduces swelling and tension. They will also keep you moving and maintain your strength without putting additional strain on your joints (especially your pelvis), which can prevent pregnancy-relates back and pelvic pain. But if you can’t find any specific classes that cater for you in your area, be mindful of the following as you continue your regular routine:

First trimester

Focus on: Gentle cardio, light weights, pilates and yoga (you can lay safely on your belly for as long as it feels comfortable for you).

Avoid: Impact sports, intense core exercises (start letting the area soften and expand as your uterus more than doubles in size in the first trimester).

Second trimester

Focus on: All-fours kneeling exercises, side-lying exercises, standing balance work, light weights and gentle cardio.

Avoid: crunches, planks, side planks, twists and jumping.

Third trimester

Focus on: Gentle mobility work, deep-breathing exercises and upper back and glute strength.

Avoid: Crunches, planks, side planks, twists, challenging balance work and end-range stretching.

Does exercise help during pregnancy?

Regular exercise during pregnancy can help to:

  • Keep you and your baby at a healthy weight
  • Prepare you for the endurance of labour
  • Reduce your risk of gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia
  • Aid in your recovery from birth

Are there exercises that can help with nausea?

Usually exercises that open out the chest area and relieve tension from the abdomen (like a lot of heart-opener stretches in yoga) can ease nausea. But not for all women, unfortunately, so this is a little bit of a trial by error to figure out what works for you.

Bird&Be Gentle Prenatal can help if you're feeling queasy. Focus on the essentials now (Folic Acid, Methylated Folate (5-MTHF), B6, B12, DHA, Iron, Vitamin C, Choline), and save the rest for when your stomach settles. Bonus: a higher dose of B6 does double-duty by supporting fetal development while also preventing nausea for you (it’s actually a main ingredient in morning sickness meds).

Are there exercises that can help with back pain/pelvic pain while pregnant?

Strengthening the glutes early on in pregnancy can be very beneficial for supporting lower back issues later. It’s also important to continue gently engaging your core through deep breathing and stability work.

If you exercised a lot pre-pregnancy, can you continue to do so?

For my clients who are athletes or do regular high-intensity exercise, I advise them to reduce this by one-third once they become pregnant. Usually women will find their energy dips as they get further along in their pregnancy which creates a natural transition to gentler exercise.