Movement Guidelines for Your Pregnant Body
Updated: Nov 6, 2022
Your body is changing everyday, stay nourished with movement that will keep you strong for the big day!
Congrats on your pregnancy! For most of us, that first trimester we are fatigued, nauseous, and can feel that life will never be the same again. I hope it's a good thing! Motherhood is profound. Giving life is profound. There should be more traditions and support around the transition into Motherhood. (Look up matrescence via Google). I digress, let's talk movement and pregnancy and even a little about movement and postpartum!!!
Let me share guidelines I tell my clients, as well as point to the American College of Ob/Gyn as another place to guide you to see what is safe for you. Remind yourself you are the best judge of what's right for you and your body. Listen to your body and your body's wisdom. We are all different. I shy on the conservative side, and was pretty careful during my pregnancy- it wasn't worth the risk for me, my sanity, and my baby.
The pregnancy might not show yet, you may not be ready to share the news with family, co-workers and friends. It could be so exciting and you want to shout it out the news from the mountain tops! Generally, I tell my clients if you are feeling alright and up to stuff, do it! Listen to your body! If it doesn't feel right, don't do it- it's time to modify. Remind yourself, everyday is different. Stay present! In this season of life it could not be more true!
Then, the second trimester rolls in. You might feel that buzz. Energetic! Your baby bump may be showing. You're ready to rock your baby glow! This is around the time I would recommend modifications and point to these guidelines:
Avoid excercise that requires laying on the back | add a pillow, or blanket to lift the head so heart is elevated.
Avoid long periods of sitting still | you don't want to cut off your circulation. During the 2nd trimester you've doubled in blood volume!!
Be prepared for changes that may throw your balance off | Your center of gravity will be changing with the growing belly, use a wider stance for balance, or a pole if you are taking reformer Pilates, or utilize a wall. No falls, mama!
Do not hold your breath | Not good for baby - you're breathing for two. This includes retention in pranayama practices.
Drink loads of water | you knew that one
Open twists are okay | There are lots of thoughts about twists. The general rule I tell clients is you want to maintain space for the baby! Don't feel like you're wringing him or her out. Open twists can feel really yummy and spacious for both baby and you! Another cue I use is "hug baby to spine" to keep the abdominals engaged.
Do not get overheated | No hot stuff for you mama! Depleting your fluids isn't a great idea.... So if you go into a warm/hot room and sweat from the get go, it's too hot for you and baby. Don't cook the baby. Your internal temperature will rise as will baby's.
No jumping | That's a big ask of your pelvic floor. My goal is for you not to pee or leak yourself later down the road (or even pregnancy). Think long term goal.
Bridging | As long as you're not on your back too long to get into a bridge you should be fine. The hips will be higher than the heart. For some it's when the hips and heart are in the same plane, that's the issue. Listen to your body. A yoga bridge might be too much for some folks, asking the belly to stretch more.....A Pilates bridge where public bone and tip of the sternum are gathered towards each other could provide some yummy core strength.
Ask for modifications! | Please go to teachers that empower you and educate you about your changing body and ways for you to maintain movement throughout your pregnancy. Movement/workouts will look different as weeks go by.
Please tell your instructor about any restrictions | very important! Even however small you think! For example, depending on how your placenta is attached, squats might not be a good idea. Or your doc might suggest you to avoid this or that and by telling your friendly instructor s/he can give you an alternative.
Third Trimester is more of the same guidelines. Listen to your body. Take it slow. Rest!!!! You can't back log sleep but, you can prepare yourself and your body for the big day. It's a marathon of your life coming!
Okay, so that gets you through pregnancy now what about after the baby is delivered?
Postpartum is a different experience. Main things I tell my clients are:
Core - Your core went through a journey giving space to baby. Now it's time to safely stitch it back together again. It's all about inter-abdominal pressure, and the TVA muscle to draw any separation back together again as well as function. That's a whole blog post in itself. (Stay tuned.) Also, a lot of pelvic floor healing and rewiring (see my pelvic floor post called "Hello, Pelvic Floor."). That doesn't mean do a bunch of curl ups and planks!!! Please no!!! I love Katy Bowman's book on Diastatsis Recti. Check it out! Core is SO much more than curl ups. Check out Pilates too..... naturally.
Take your time - We have this awful, awful culture about "bouncing back". Please drink up the moments with baby. Take a walk with baby. Go to a mindful postnatal yoga practice. Pilates is great for the inner core. But, take your time. Listen to your body. Find times to rest and be quiet. What you do now will effect you as you age.... so go slow. I've read it takes up to two years for everything to get back to a new normal. Think spinal changes alone....
First 40 days- Chinese and Ayurveda have thoughts, attitudes and practices around the first 40 days after birth. My acupuncturist put it this way to me: If there is trauma, or disturbance in these first 40 days it take the same number of years to heal from them. I love this article and I love the book "First 40 days, Nurishing the New Mother" for more information about this. I wish I had before I had the baby so I could have implemented some of these practices and boundaries!!
Do not normalize the abnormal!!! - A little soapbox moment.... Incontinence is not normal. The experience is but, let's put that to an end. Let's put Poise out of business, shall we? Take your time. Let's run and jump with our kids and not have to worry about leakage.
My story of my first pregnancy:
I add my personal experience and story as part cartharsis and more importantly to share. To share my story so others like me can feel less isolated, alone, and hopefully have a moment of "me too!!". I think we've all had that feeling of relief when someone else has had a shared experience.
My first trimester was neither hidden, nor shout it from the mountain tops but, somewhere in-between. I "showed" early. I say "showed" because I think it was mainly bloating that our culture just assumes is a baby bump. I also was nauseous ALL the time. I felt like I was car sick for 14+ weeks. So the math of, bloating plus nausea was a give away. I enjoyed folks being excited for me but, I had hoped it would be a more private transition. We found out the sex of the baby at 8 weeks, and we shared that with folks but, we kept her name a secret. We had to have something that my husband and I could hold privately. Meanwhile, I was teaching but, didn't have energy. I couldn't be on my belly at all ever since I found out she was on board. Yoga flow made me more nauseous in a group setting with the constant ups and downs. There's a lot of inner movement with the subtle body as well. The breathing was too much. I wasn't used to the shallow breathing that accompanies pregnancy. I didn't have access to a prenatal yoga class. I wish I did. I enjoyed Pilates more than yoga at that point. On the reformer you can do quality, slow, precise movement. In a Private Pilates session you can gab about your experience, you can tell your instructor "I made it to the reformer that's all I got" and she understood. Let's do a bunch of work in this position, and then we'll move you to this position after 20+ minutes. I knew I was growing stronger in my arms and shoulders- important when lugging a baby, and carseat all over the place, and I knew I was growing stronger in my pelvis/hips-important for the act of birth. I loved it! I had my needs addressed. So all in all, first trimester was adjusting to life with another being on board. I had to slow down. This art of slowing down was a very hard message to hear, incorporate and understand until I faced this.
My second trimester was short.... as in the "buzz" and energy that is associated with this phase. I loved going to Barre, and continued with private Pilates sessions. An asana practice still wasn't comfortable for me. Meditation was critical though! Can't say enough good things about some of the meditation apps out there for pregnancy! (Check out HeadSpace, and/or Expectful.) I'm convinced I had a natural birth due to my consistent meditation practice. Now, I wasn't meditating for hours on end. I was doing do-able amounts of time like 5-15minutes of guided meditation using HeadSpace. More about this in an upcoming blog post.
My third trimester was nesting, and preparation. Pilates, and walking was what this body of mine could handle and nourished it. Staying pain-free, mobile, and nourished are the things I look for in movement practices. I was so tired! A yoga teacher early on told me, "you're doing twice, maybe three times as much as someone who isn't pregnant." This message was really important for me to hear. Circles back to the slowing down message, right? My ego embraced this notion. I love some of the lines from Ali Wong's Netflix comedy special like, the reminder "I'm growing a leg, what are you doing?!" still makes me smile.
And then my big day into Motherhood! I went natural, even though I was gently induced. No complications. A healthy baby girl. And mama didn't do too badly either.