Pregnancy, postpartum, and motherhood are HUGE times in a woman’s life and while fitness is often a hot topic in the community, when it comes to choosing how to exercise during these phases women are often flying solo and relying on Google and Instagram for answers. Either that or they are just told to listen to their bodies and to continue doing what they’ve always done on one spectrum or don’t lift over 15 pounds and only do yoga and walk on the other.
Studies show that exercise is SO beneficial to pregnant and postpartum bodies, but the overload of conflicting information can get really overwhelming really quickly. ACOG recommends pregnant women engage in about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week. The old “don’t start something new in pregnancy” no longer applies, they just recommend you start gradually. Even though the recommendations for post-pregnancy are minimal, they do state that exercising post-baby can help improve mood- which is absolutely true. New Canadian guidelines state that exercise isn’t just beneficial, but can actually reduce the odds of major complications.
Science is definitely on your side when it comes to exercise in pregnancy and postpartum, the problem arises when we discuss what KIND of exercise. Someone once told me that they read in one article that glute bridges were good to to in pregnancy, then found in another article that glute bridges were not good to do in pregnancy…. This is the information that’s out there. (P.S. Do all the glute bridges in pregnancy unless they don’t feel good for your body) The same applies for postpartum. In a quick Google search you can find information ranging from never do a crunch again to start doing crunches and planks ASAP. It’s crazy confusing.
Here’s the thing about exercise in general, it is SO unique to each person and each body. It isn’t about WHAT exercise you’re doing, but HOW you’re doing it and any movement is better than none at all. Here are questions I like to pose when the questions of exercise in pregnancy and postpartum arise:
- What are your goals? Set realistic expectations and reasons for why you want to fit exercise in your life right now. Are you wanting to exercise to maintain your athleticism or because it makes you feel good? Do you want to workout because you think it'll make your birth easier or help you lose baby weight faster? Thinking about your goals can help you address some of the fears or stories you have behind movement during this huge chapter. I recommend setting positive goals that aren't strictly body-focused.
- What is your starting point? Are you a new exerciser? Or someone who has been working out and wants to continue the current regimen? What symptoms are you experiencing, if any? Don't stress if your starting point isn't where you want to be, progress is key. Start with moving in ways that feel good and are pain and symptom-free. Focus on your wins.
- Is it sustainable and adaptable? When the going gets tough, are your workouts going to continue to serve you? Or are you going to feel like it's all or nothing? What is going to make you feel good without overwhelming you? This is why I love strength training. It’s adaptable for your body and time. It helps strengthen your body body in a way that helps you do life better. It also helps you feel strong mentally, not just physically.
If you’re ever in doubt about what exercise is right for you or if you should continue your exercise routine (or for how long or when you can continue again postpartum), I highly recommend seeking out someone trained in prenatal and postnatal fitness. Someone with specific training, not a fitness professional who has had kids at some point, can help you assess what is right for your individual body as well as help you find a qualified pelvic floor physical therapist to aid you in your postpartum recovery or manage any symptoms you may have during pregnancy. Here are just a few more ways a pregnancy and postpartum fitness coach can help you:
- To continue exercising in a way that feels good for you throughout your pregnancy and can help you get back to fitness you love postpartum faster
- Assess risk versus benefit for your individual body and help you find modifications that work for you and your sport
- Provide you with evidence-based information on exercise, diastasis recti, and pelvic floor dysfunction (and if they can’t, move along)
- Get back to doing what you love faster and without pain or symptoms
- Find a pelvic floor specialist that can aid you in recovering post-birth or help manage symptoms such as incontinence, pelvic pain, SPD, or back pain
- Give you more to focus on than how your body looks postpartum, ease your fears about symptoms and struggles, and empower you to feel your strongest in these amazing chapters of life.
How do you find such a qualified coach? Ask me or someone like me. We have a whole network of amazing coaches, pelvic health professionals, and other women’s health advocates we can connect you with and we are more than happy to do just that, Whether you’re looking for remote coaching, in-person coaching, or just want to find someone that you click with, we can help you. You can reach out to me via my website here or if you’re in the Birmingham area, come to my new class Pregnancy and Postpartum Fitness Tuesday, February 26th to learn more about diastasis recti, pelvic floor, and exercise in pregnancy and postpartum and to get your individual questions answered. You can register for the class here.
Believe it or not, motherhood is actually very athletic. We carry, lift, rotate, run, and crawl all the time. It’s full of putting other people before ourselves, feeling like there aren’t enough hours in the day, and loving people so much it hurts. It can be really hard to prioritize yourself during this phase of life, but it is SO important to do just that. Exercise is a fantastic way to prioritize yourself and with the right team and the right strategies on your side it can be something that empowers and fulfills you for the long term.