Pre & Post Natal Training: How To Be Fit & Energized For Motherhood

The arrival of a new child is a unique and demanding experience for any woman. Whether you are a mother-to-be or have already welcomed your new bundle of joy into the world, the contradictory information available about pre and post natal training can be difficult to sort through.

If you have already been training regularly or are interested in starting a new routine post baby, you are going to have a lot of questions that need to be answered regarding the benefits and risks associated with exercise. Below we will debunk some of the most common myths and explain why it is beneficial to train during and after your pregnancy!

Benefits of pre and post natal training include: 

• Keeps your body strong, stable and comfortable as it changes throughout your pregnancy.

• Helps you to feel strong, energized and empowered. 

• Helps to decrease stress levels & improves sleep

• Will assist in alleviating some of the physical discomforts during pregnancy and labour.

• Releases good chemicals in the brain that help to balance all of the hormonal shifts in your body

after giving birth.

• Can assist in weight loss management alongside a proper diet. 

• Strengthening your body helps to alleviate aches and pains, setting you up for a speedy recovery

• Gives you the added energy and stamina you will need for motherhood.

• Increases flexibility. 

• Assists in diminishing postnatal depression. 

Keep in mind, pregnancy is different for everyone, therefore it is important to check with your physian prior to starting an exercise routine.

Read on and see how being a fit and fabulous mom is realistic, safe, and healthy!

1. Is lifting weights dangerous when you are pregnant? 

Research is in favour or prenatal exercise. Moms who train regularly during their pregnancy have fewer complications, shorter labours and hospital stays, and healthier babies! Exercising while pregnant helps to strengthen your baby's blood vessels, which can prevent certain cardiovascular diseases in the future.  Additionally, babies appear to handle the stressors of labour more easily and mature faster. What great  incentives to stay active!

2. You risk injury more easily during training due to instabilities in your changing body. Yes, indeed the body is changing and is full of the hormone relaxin, which increases flexibility in a pregnant woman's ligaments and tendons. This is necessary for carrying a child and to prepare for the birth. Is it not true that training increases your stability by strengthening your muscles, ligaments, etc...? Exactly. Research shows that strength training programs during pregnancy help to decrease aches and pains, while helping you to maintain a proper posture. Basics like squats, lunges, pushing and pulling motions are highly useful in strengthening the lower back and encouraging movement in the pelvis region. 

3. Beware of ab exercises!

It can be scary as a new mom to hear that doing ab exercises can risk separating your abdominal wall. What does this even mean? Abdominal separation (Diastis Recti) can occur as a result of your growing fetus pressing onto the abdominal wall - stretching your muscles and connective tissue. The good news is that by actually strengthening your core, you can ensure a more speedy recovery from abdominal separation. 

Recommended exercises include farmers walks, diaphragmatic breathing exercises, and pelvic floor exercises. Certain exercises like the front plank and crunches should be avoided.Another reason to have a strong core? Pregnancy causes a shift in weight to the front of a woman's body, therefore stronger abs help to prevent hyper extension of the back and improper positioning of the pelvis. 

4. A heart rate higher than 140 bpm during exercise can be harmful to an unborn child. This myth finds it's origins in certain facts. If an expectant mothers heart rate is too high, the fetus will be lacking in oxygen as a consequence. However, research shows a heart rate of 140 bpm will not cause this to happen. The majority of the time, your heart rate has already hit, if not exceeded 140 bpm during your warm up only. 

Consider the stress on a woman and her baby during labour – would it therefore not be beneficial that she have a good cardiovascular endurance and ability to withstand physical exertion? Yes, indeed it would. 

During your workouts, it is ok to break a sweat and remain challenged. Keep in mind, you should be feeling good, and should be not be considerably out of breath. Listen to your body and allow yourself the appropriate amount of time to recover during and between trainings.

5. How long do I have to wait to start exercising after giving birth? It is widely circulated that you should wait 6 weeks to exercise after giving birth. However, there is no research that proves this is necessary, or beneficial for that matter. Unless, of course, you have health restrictions. 

Changes following a new addition to the family can be stressful – why wouldn't we want to decrease stress levels by getting in a good workout? Generally, women who exercise until the end of their pregnancy can begin immediately post birth with light exercises and stretching. Newcomers or those who stopped while pregnant should start a little more slowly, however everyone can start with pelvic floor and certain abdominal exercises right away. If your core stabilizers are not strong, you may be prone to lower back pain and aches. Not fun. 

Training following childbirth can help your body to recover faster and cope with the demands of being a mother. You will want cardiovascular endurance and functional strength, as you will likely be carrying baby around a lot. This takes a toll on your muscular and skeletal system, especially your posture. Regular exercise will help to address imbalances and stresses on your systems, while helping to heal post pregnancy abdominal muscle separation (Diastasis Recti). 

6. How can I tell if I'm doing too much too soon? Childbirth is not always easy on a woman's body, therefore you want to make sure that you are pacing yourself and allowing yourself to heal. If you have had a caesarean, you sure make sure your scar is healing properly. You may be pleased to hear that there is no real research out there that specifies an exact time frame for when a woman can return to physical activity after child birth. Quite simply put – as soon as you are physically and medically ready to. It can take up to 6 months to fully return to your pre-pregnancy fitness level. However, it has been shown that the more fit you were before baby, the less time it will take to bounce back after the birth. 

7. Can I train if I am breastfeeding?

Simply put, yes you can. It may be more comfortable to exercise after feeding your child and to avoid exercises that can cause discomfort. Lastly, make sure you have the appropriate support so you can give 100% in your workout! 

8. I used to be a runner pre-pregnancy, when can I start this again? Don't worry all of you runners out there – you will be able to get back to your regular routine with a little bit of patience and preparation. After giving birth, your joints, ligaments, and hip flexors can feel more flexible & loose. This is due to hormones produce during pregnancy which loosen up your muscles and joints, potentially increasing your risk for injury. Therefore you will need to start by teaching your core to activate again, in order to decrease movement in the pelvis area. Pushups and planks are great for this! This will also help with lower back and hip pain.

Start with walks and increase the length and pace of activity gradually. Pay attention to your level of fatigue so you will be able to responsibly handle increases in intensity during training. Pregnancy and childbirth brings many changes to a woman's life. These changes can be incredible but also bring with them certain challenges. Training regularly during and after pregnancy promotes the management of a healthy weight, strengthens the body and increases flexibility. It prepares the body for childbirth and allows you to be the fit, energized and fabulous mother you always dreamed of being.