MegaFood | May 2022

It seems like almost everything needs to be modified when you are pregnant. Lifestyle updates include taking prenatal vitamins, discovering pregnancy exercises you enjoy, and limiting caffeine and alcohol.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that ‘exercise for pregnant women’ is one of the most searched topics on Google. Discovering pregnancy-safe workouts is a priority for many women and their partners. According to the National Institute of Health there are so many reasons to keep exercising while pregnant, including lower incidence of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and preterm births. Not to mention the positive impact on the mind and body health of pregnant women.

Read on to discover six great prenatal exercises you can do throughout your pregnancy to benefit both you and your baby.

What are the Benefits of Prenatal Exercise?

“Pregnancy is not an illness and staying strong and mobile can help ward off common pregnancy discomforts, plus help body and mind get prepared for labor and birth,” explains Deb Flashenberg, the founder and director of the Prenatal Yoga Center in New York City. “More specifically, as the baby grows and the center of gravity shifts, the front of the body becomes weaker. As a result, other muscles such as the back, hips, hamstrings, psoas, and glutes step in to compensate,” she adds, noting how this can lead to imbalance in the body and tension. Pregnancy exercises can help strengthen the body and help women keep up their endurance and focus, “This can be helpful for any type of birth, vaginal or cesarean,” explains Flashenberg.

4 Safe, Gentle Exercises You Can Do During Pregnancy

Walking for Pregnancy

Walking is a wonderful pregnancy exercise because it requires no additional equipment other than a sturdy pair of shoes. You can increase your speed and exertion in earlier months and when you are feeling up to it. When you are feeling tired or are further along in your pregnancy, you can slow things down as needed.

Swimming for Pregnancy

The American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists recommends swimming as a safe and healthy exercise for pregnant women, stating, “Water workouts use many of the body’s muscles. The water supports your weight so you avoid injury and muscle strain.”

Stationary Biking for Pregnancy

Due to balance issues and shifting center of gravity, biking is not recommended for pregnant women as they progress. The American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists recommends stationary biking as a better choice. This exercise may be more comfortable to do in the first and second trimesters when your belly is smaller.

2 Great Prenatal Yoga Moves to Try

There are many benefits to yoga including relaxation, stretching, deep breathing, and exercise. Modified yoga specifically designed for pregnant women is recommended by the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists. “These classes often teach modified poses that accommodate a pregnant woman’s shifting balance. You should avoid poses that require you to be still or lie on your back for long periods.”

Deb Flashenberg, the founder and director of the Prenatal Yoga Center is an expert on prenatal yoga moves that are safe to try. Here are two of her favorites that you can do on your own:

Child’s Pose for Pregnancy:

Flashenberg says this yoga pose falls into the restorative category, but there are still many wonderful benefits. “This pose can focus on breathing, which helps regulate the parasympathetic nervous system as well as help find back rib expansion,” she explains. “Due to the mid-back rounding forward and the lack of strength in the front body muscles, the back ribs tend to lose mobility and get weak, tight, and tense. Focusing on your breath and expanding your back ribs on the inhale can help relax the back muscles as well as help release the psoas muscles,” she adds.

To try the Child’s Pose position, Flashenberg says to “come down onto the floor, widen your knees as far as you need to comfortably fold forward with your feet coming toward one another.” And, if your head doesn’t touch the floor in this pose, you can add extra support and bring the floor to you by placing a yoga block or bolster under your forehead.

Dynamic Squats for Pregnancy:

For something a little more robust, Flashenberg recommends giving dynamic squats a try. “This pose helps lengthen the pelvic floor muscles, strengthen the posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, back, and hips), and builds stamina,” she explains.

To add dynamic squats to your prenatal exercise routine, Flashenberg says to start with your feet “either parallel or slightly turned out” and then “inhale as you reach your hips back as if you are sitting into a tiny chair.” She cautions to try not to arch your lower back or round your back. Then, tuck your tailbone under, with your arms either in front of you or overhead. “As you exhale, press into your heels and press up to stand,” she explains, noting that arms can come down by your side at this time. Flashenberg recommends 8-10 squats or whatever feels right for you. As with any exercise during pregnancy, consult with your physician before trying anything new.

Are Squats Safe When Pregnant?

Flashenberg recommends the dynamic squats exercise “as long as the pregnant person does not have a breech baby, placenta previa, or lots of pain.” When doing squats while pregnant, Flashenberg says to “make sure you are not perched on the balls of your feet [and] you may need a blanket or towel under the heels.” She also recommends focusing on your tailbone and ensuring not to tuck it but “instead release the tailbone back behind you and keep your chest lifted.”

Which Exercises Should Be Avoided During Pregnancy?

When it comes to prenatal exercise — or any exercise for that matter –there is not a one size fits all approach. In Flashenberg’s opinion, prone positions “where someone is lying on their belly” is not recommended during pregnancy. “I also recommend modifying anything that increases excess intra abdominal pressure, since it puts stress on the pelvic floor or the ‘6-pack muscles,’” she explains. Some examples of [these workouts] would be anything where you are holding your breath, planks, or intense core work and intense weight lifting. As far as prenatal yoga is concerned, Flashenberg says she veers away from deep backbends with her students.

The American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists advises pregnant women to avoid contact sports including ice hockey, boxing, soccer, basketball, scuba diving and skydiving. They also recommend that pregnant women not do physical activity that causes extreme temperature increases in the body including hot yoga or hot pilates.

Which Prenatal Exercises Should You Do During Each Trimester?

Many women wonder which exercises are safe to do during each trimester. This is a question best discussed with your doctor. Your body’s sense of balance is consistently shifting as the months progress. Some exercises that were comfortable to do early on, may feel laborious as time goes on. Again, your doctor will be able to guide you on this.

When Should I Start Prenatal Workouts?

You can start any of these safe prenatal workouts whenever you are ready. While there are many health benefits to working out while pregnant, some enjoy prenatal exercise for the community aspect. Walking with a friend, doing an outdoor yoga class or even Zooming for some stretches with an instructor can be a great way to connect and stay healthy while pregnant. As with any exercise during pregnancy, consult with your physician before trying anything new.

As with any exercise during pregnancy, consult with your physician before trying anything new.