It’s a bit late to complain about it now but looking back I really wish I had found the energy to exercise during each of my pregnancies. When pregnant with Little Bean, my beautiful first-born, I was working full time so I didn’t really have lots of time to exercise BUT I did do lots and lots of walking. We had a dog at the time so I would take our dog out for long walks every day and towards the end of my pregnancy I would just walk and walk and walk in an attempt to kick-start labour (it didn’t work!).
My labour with Little Bean was hard work. I was only in active labour for 8.5hours but I worked hard. I opted for pethidine and instantly regretted it, I became so exhausted that I ended up needing the help of the Doctor to delivery our beautiful baby girl by forceps. Throughout labour I told myself I should have exercised more.
My pregnancy with Beanie Boy was mostly a breeze although I did have one hefty bump. From about 20 weeks I enrolled in an Aquanatal class which I absolutely LOVED. It was enough exercise that I felt I had done something yet at the same time I felt completely connected to my unborn son. I was suspended in the water, just as he was suspended in the waters within me. My favourite part of aquanatal was at the very end when I would just float in the water with my eyes closed and feel him wriggling around inside. One important lesson I learnt during aquanatal classes was how to breathe and so when it came to labour, even though it was even longer at 11.5hrs, I actually found it much more bearable and I felt totally in control of my body. I managed to get through labour with only gas and air, I felt empowered.
When I discovered I was pregnant for a third time with Jelly Bean I had only recently signed up to a contract at my local gym. I had been going for about 6 weeks, 2-3 days a week religiously; running, cycling, swimming and some light weights so when I found out I was to be a Mummy again I decided that I would continue to exercise throughout to have a healthier third and final pregnancy. Unfortunately, I have never had the best joints in the world so as my body grew, my joints complained at the exercise and very soon the gym became a thing of the past with a wasted fee being paid out each month for the remainder of the year’s term. Of course, having two little people to run around after I certainly didn’t get to rest much and we would still go for lots of long walks and when it came to labour this time it was quick, just 2.5hours and he was out. I swear it was just one looooooong contraction and again I managed it on just gas and air. I didn’t feel ‘fit’ but I coped.
Since pregnancy I have felt that I ‘could have done better’ and when looking in the mirror I wonder how much better my ‘tone’ would be had I exercised more. Following each pregnancy I have really struggled to drop the weight (especially the Mummy tummy) and that is the part I still hate the most. I have just watched the video below by Equinox Q about a first time Mum and why she trains pregnant and I think “well done you, keep up the good work” because I think she will feel amazing and labour well.
Not sure about exercising during pregnancy? Read what these experts have to say about it;
Jayne O’Brien, Pilates Manager at Equinox Kensington
‘As Pilates targets the deep core muscles, this is perfect for pregnant women to strengthen their core muscles, as the centre of gravity will change as they get more pregnant and strong core muscles will help avoid weak lower back muscles. Pregnant women need strong legs so squats and inner thigh exercises with the Pilates magic circle are excellent. They will need strong upper back muscles for lifting and carrying the baby, so arm springs with resistance seated and standing.’
Benefits from exercising during pregnancy include: ‘better energy, better sleep, stronger core muscles to reduce pregnancy discomfort, stronger and fitter body to be ready for the birth, the body will get back into shape a lot quicker if they have been exercising through their pregnancy, better balance and body awareness.’
What to avoid when exercising during pregnancy: ‘Pregnant women should avoid too much lying on their back after the first trimester as this limits oxygen to the baby, avoid exercises going upside down, or going up on a chair where balance is an issue and they could fall. Side-lying, seated and standing exercises are the best ones to choose.’
Lee Brooks, Tier 3+ Personal Training at Equinox Kensington
Key exercises during pregnancy include: ‘Standing or kneeling core stability, weighted rows getting the shoulder blades back together to hold posture through the changing weight/centre of gravity during pregnancy, and all body movements. Resistance will depend on the client, how they feel, nausea, tiredness, but most movements can be done in the first trimester. The main thing is you’re not really trying to achieve huge strength increases or get personal best times on any cardio. You’re just trying to keep the strength you have and make sure glutes and core are fully active to help the body stay injury free and mobile.’
What to avoid when exercising during pregnancy: ‘A lot of data is out-dated and I think it will change over the next few years. I think not going too intensely on cardio so heart rate and blood pressure aren’t driven up too high is sensible. I avoid overhead work in the third trimester for the same reason. Anything lying on the stomach is out of course and flat on the back for too long is still on the list of negatives but there is so much you can do otherwise it’s not an issue. Staying hydrated and staying cool is recommended so no hot environments whilst training.’
Did you exercise during pregnancy? Do you wish you had, just like me?