Pregnancy Exercise Q&A

pregnancy exercise with dumbbells

⭐️ Can I exercise whilst pregnant?

Absolutely! If you have an uncomplicated pregnancy and have GP’s clearance to exercise (more on this further down) then you’re good to go!

If you’re used to exercising then you can more or less continue as normal during the first trimester, however be aware that morning sickness / fatigue may mean you don’t really feel like it, and that’s ok! During the first trimester, your blood vessels expand in preparation for more blood flow, however the increased blood flow doesn’t arrive until the second trimester meaning your blood pressure drops. This is called Vascular Underfill and can cause dizziness and contribute to the feelings of nausea.

If you are feeling good and want to exercise, just listen to your body and make sure you don’t overheat or exercise in hot / humid conditions. This is really important as overheating can cause birth defects. Use the talk test: if you can hold a conversation then you’re at the right intensity. If you struggle to speak, you’re working too hard. Also, gradually reduce the intensity as you move through the trimesters – your body will tell you to slow down anyway!

Remember you are exercising to maintain your fitness levels and feel good. You are not aiming to improve your fitness or achieve PB’s.

Take care when switching positions, particularly from laying down to standing – moving too quickly can cause lightheadedness / dizzy spells.

Not used to exercise? Take it slow- this isn’t the time to take up strenuous exercise. Start with 15 mins of light to moderate intensity 3 times a week and gradually build up to 30 mins daily. Good options include walking, swimming, indoor cycling or a pregnancy specific exercise class.

If you’re going to the gym or attending exercises classes, please make sure your instructor is a Pre & Post Natal qualified instructor, so that you know the class is suitable for you and you’re getting the right advice.

All Mama & Me Fitness ‘Pre Natal’ and ‘LIVE’ classes are suitable for pregnancy from conception to delivery, with plenty of exercise adaptations to suit your stage, so you know you’re in good hands. Please get in touch:

⭐️Can I train my core?

Contrary to popular belief, you CAN still do core training whilst pregnant. There are however, certain exercises that you will need to adapt and some to avoid completely, as putting too much pressure on your core can cause Diastasis Recti (Ab Separation – check out my separate blog post on this)

Avoid any type of crunches / sit ups and double leg lifts. Also take care with planks and press ups, ideally do these from your knees, particularly once you start showing.

If you notice any doming in your stomach when doing any kind of core exercise, then its too much for you right now and that’s your sign to stop. This is where your stomach appears to bulge into a cone shape.

Check out my Instagram feed for a pregnancy specific core workout.

⭐️ Is it true I can lift weights?

Of course! Again, just listen to your body and don’t lift too heavy. If you’re used to lifting then continue as normal during the first trimester and aim to reduce the weight by 5-10% each trimester. However, take care with your form and do slow, controlled reps.

Don’t lift to failure- stop once you’re moderately fatigued instead, so if 3 sets of 10 normally has you maxed out for example, reduce the reps / sets or weight accordingly.

If you aren’t used to lifting weights then take caution and use light weights you can lift for 15-20 reps.

Avoid lifting heavy weights above your head and also be mindful of standing still for too long – switch to a seated position for upper body work if you need to.

If weights are a struggle, then stick to bodyweight exercises. You’ll still get a good workout as there are loads of challenging bodyweight exercises out there.

⭐️ Anything I should avoid?

Avoid contact sports such as boxing, where there is risk of a blow to the stomach or activities with a risk of falling such as horse riding, skiing or cycling (indoor cycling is a great, low impact alternative).

Avoid high impact activities and lots of jumping around. This can put a lot of pressure on your pelvic floor and your stomach muscles (Rectus Abdominis) which are already under pressure from the growing foetus. Also a hormone called ‘Relaxin’ works to loosen your joints in preparation for birth so this makes you more susceptible to injury.

Avoid exercises with lots of twisting and changing direction. This might aggravate round ligament or pelvic pain and also cause dizziness. Also be aware of the growing bump changing your centre of gravity and affecting your balance.

Finally, make sure you don’t do any exercises lying on your back (supine) after the first trimester. You can adapt exercises such as chest press to an incline.

⭐️ Do I NEED to exercise?

The most important thing to remember is you are growing a human, which is a big deal and very tiring! Listen to your body and get plenty of rest- you’re going to need it!

Having said that, exercising when pregnant is very beneficial for both mother and baby. It will help prevent excessive weight gain and conditions such as Gestational Diabetes, combat fatigue, reduce back pain and help you sleep. Its also great for those niggling aches and pains.

Its also useful to remember that motherhood brings with it a lot of lifting / carrying of a baby / car seat / pram etc…so incorporating some functional strength training into your pregnancy routine will help you to prepare.

The NHS recommends keeping active on a daily basis – 30 minutes of walking each day can be enough.

You should also make sure you do pelvic floor exercises on a daily basis – pregnancy puts a lot of pressure on your pelvic floor and core muscles which can leave lots of women with incontinence / prolapse issues. Don’t worry, this can be avoided. Check out my Instagram feed for a post all about Pelvic floor and how to do them.

⭐️ When you shouldn’t exercise

There are several scenarios in pregnancy where exercise is not advised. These are called ‘absolute’ contraindications. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Heart disease
  • Incompetent cervix
  • Persistent bleeding
  • Placenta previa
  • Pre-eclampsia

There are also several scenarios where exercise may be possible, however GP advice should be followed as this would be on an individual basis, these are known as ‘relative’ contraindications. These include:

  • Severe Anaemia
  • Extreme morbid obesity
  • Heavy smoker
  • Poorly controlled type 1 diabetes
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Multiple gestation

❗️ALWAYS seek advice from your GP before taking part in any form of exercise, the above information is general advice- every pregnancy is different.

❗️If you experience any pain, discomfort, dizziness or excessive fatigue then stop immediately and get advice from your GP.