Pregnancy and childbirth, while incredibly beautiful, can place significant demands on a woman’s body. As a trainer for pregnant and postpartum clients, providing extra care and attention is crucial during this transformative time. Prioritising self-care is essential, and one of the best ways to support overall wellbeing is through regular exercise. However, it’s important to approach exercise safely and effectively to minimise the risk of injuries and complications. In this blog post, we will explore practical and safe exercise tips specifically tailored for your pregnant and postpartum clients. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that you’re providing the necessary support and meeting their unique needs throughout this beautiful journey.
Benefits of Exercise During and Post-Pregnancy
Regular physical activity during pregnancy not only enhances overall wellbeing but can also lead to significant health benefits. Firstly, exercise can help manage weight gain and prepare the body for labour. It can also improve mood and energy levels, helping to combat feelings of fatigue common in pregnancy.
In addition, exercise helps to alleviate common pregnancy-related issues, such as backache, constipation, bloating, and swelling. It can also boost their ability to cope with labour and hasten recovery time post-birth.
In the postnatal period, gentle exercise can help restore muscle strength and firm up your client’s body, making them feel physically stronger and more capable. Regular movement can also boost mood and energy levels, aiding in combating potential postnatal depression. Furthermore, exercise can promote better sleep quality, which is often a challenge for new mothers.
Remember, it’s important for your clients to consult their healthcare provider before beginning or continuing any exercise regime during pregnancy and after childbirth. This is because a lot happens to a woman’s body throughout pregnancy. Let’s explore this further.
Changes to the Body During Pregnancy: Exercise Implications
Pregnancy brings with it a symphony of changes, which have significant implications for exercise. Hormonal fluctuations may lead to changes in ligament elasticity, potentially increasing the risk of injuries, particularly if high-impact exercises are performed. The increased body weight due to pregnancy can also put additional strain on joints, particularly in the lower body, accentuating the need for low-impact exercise.
As the pregnancy progresses, the increase in belly size alters the centre of gravity, potentially affecting balance. In light of this, exercises that require precise balance should be approached with caution. Breathing capacity may become limited due to the upward pressure of the growing uterus, making aerobic exercise more challenging.
In addition, the body’s circulatory system also undergoes changes, with blood volume increasing by up to 50%, putting a greater demand on the heart. Hence, it’s essential to modify exercise intensity to ensure it remains in a safe range.
By understanding these bodily changes, appropriate adjustments can be made to the exercise regimen to ensure safety and effectiveness throughout the pregnancy journey.
Safe Exercises During Pregnancy and Post Birth
Below we have detailed a list of exercises designed to support your clients’ physical health throughout pregnancy and into the postnatal period. As each trimester brings its own unique changes and challenges, we’ve broken down our recommendations accordingly.
- Walking: This low-impact exercise is safe and easily adaptable to your clients’ fitness level. It can be continued throughout all trimesters.
- Prenatal Yoga: This form of yoga is modified for pregnant women, focusing on stretching, mental centring, and focused breathing.
- Swimming: Swimming and water workouts put little stress on the joints and can help with swelling and discomfort.
- Pelvic Tilt Exercises: These exercises strengthen your clients’ core muscles and can help alleviate backache during pregnancy.
- Stationary Biking: This low-impact exercise is an excellent way to build strength and stamina with minimal strain on the joints.
- Low-impact Aerobics: These classes can help maintain fitness, tone muscles, and reduce the risk of gestational diabetes.
- Pregnancy Pilates: These exercises are designed to strengthen your clients’ tummy, back, and pelvic floor muscles without straining their heart.
- Walking: Continue walking regularly, adjusting speed and distance as needed for comfort.
- Gentle Stretching: Stretching can help maintain flexibility, reduce muscle tension, and alleviate common discomforts like backache.
Post Birth Exercises
- Kegel Exercises: These exercises help strengthen pelvic floor muscles, promoting recovery after childbirth.
- Walking: Start with short walks, gradually increasing distance as your clients’ strength and stamina improve.
- Postnatal Yoga or Pilates: Once cleared by their healthcare provider, these gentle exercises can help restore core strength and flexibility.
Your clients should consult their healthcare provider before starting any new exercise regime during pregnancy and post birth. Encourage them to listen to their body, if an exercise causes discomfort, stop and seek professional advice.
Tips for Exercising During Pregnancy and Post Birth
As a trainer for pregnant and postnatal clients, it’s crucial to understand the transformative journey their bodies undergo during pregnancy and the numerous benefits of staying active. Now, let’s focus on some practical tips to guide you in helping your clients exercise safely and effectively.
- Consult with their doctor: Before designing any exercise routine for your pregnant or postnatal clients, it’s essential for them to consult with their doctor. Their medical history and any complications experienced during pregnancy will provide valuable insight. Additionally, their doctor can suggest exercises to avoid or modify based on their individual needs.
- Encourage starting slowly and listening to their bodies: Pregnancy brings significant changes to the body, so it’s important to encourage clients to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of their exercise routine. Remind them to listen to their bodies and take breaks if they experience any pain or discomfort. Their bodies will communicate what they need, and it’s crucial to pay attention.
- Focus on stretching and relaxing exercises: Prenatal yoga, Pilates, and walking are excellent choices for pregnant clients. These exercises promote blood flow, relieve muscle tension, and prepare the body for birth. For postnatal clients, focus on exercises that aid relaxation and pelvic floor recovery.
- Highlight the importance of proper posture: During pregnancy, the center of gravity shifts, affecting posture. Emphasise the significance of maintaining good posture during exercise. Encourage clients to keep their spine straight, shoulders back and relaxed, and pelvis in a neutral position. Proper posture not only prevents injury but also enhances the effectiveness of their exercises.
- Caution against returning to pre-pregnancy routines too quickly: It’s important for clients to understand that their bodies need time to recover after childbirth. Advise them not to rush into their pre-pregnancy exercise routines. Instead, encourage gentle exercises like walking or stretching initially, gradually progressing to more intense workouts. Collaborating with a personal trainer specialising in postnatal exercise can provide clients with the guidance and support they need to exercise safely and effectively.
By following these guidelines, you can support your pregnant and postnatal clients in maintaining their health and strength throughout their journey.
Staying Motivated During Pregnancy and Post Birth
As a trainer for pregnant and postnatal clients, it’s important to understand the challenges they face in maintaining exercise motivation. Pregnancy brings physical changes and anticipation of life-altering events. Here are some tips to support and motivate your clients:
- Set Realistic Goals: Help your clients set achievable fitness goals that align with their current abilities. Starting with simple goals like daily walks or specific prenatal yoga poses and gradually increasing targets will keep them focused and motivated.
- Celebrate Small Achievements: Encourage your clients to recognise and celebrate each small victory. Whether it’s walking a little further, holding a yoga pose a little longer, or feeling more energetic, these achievements signify progress and should be acknowledged.
- Promote Enjoyable Activities: Guide your clients towards exercises and activities they genuinely enjoy. Whether it’s recommending prenatal or postnatal exercise classes or suggesting scenic walks in locations they love, engaging in activities they enjoy will increase adherence.
- Encourage Exercise Buddies: Highlight the benefits of exercising with a friend or in a group setting. Encourage your clients to find other pregnant or postnatal individuals to team up with for their fitness goals. This will not only make workouts more enjoyable but also provide mutual encouragement and support.
- Maintain a Positive Outlook: Remind your clients that it’s normal to have days when they don’t feel like exercising. Encourage them to maintain a positive attitude and remind them that every small step towards their fitness goals is a testament to their commitment to themselves and their baby.
By understanding and implementing these strategies, you can effectively support and motivate your pregnant and postnatal clients on their fitness journey.
Embracing Fitness During Pregnancy and Beyond
In summary, encouraging and supporting physical activity throughout pregnancy and postnatal stages can greatly benefit the overall wellbeing of your clients. It not only provides them with physical advantages but also uplifts their mental and emotional health. As a trainer, it is crucial to promote mindful practices, patience, and attentive listening to their bodies. Setting realistic goals, celebrating small achievements, and engaging in enjoyable activities will help them navigate this miraculous journey with strength and grace. Encourage them to find an exercise buddy for added motivation and remind them to maintain a positive attitude.
Always keep in mind that each step they take is not only for themselves but also for the new life they are nurturing. Prioritise open communication and collaboration with their healthcare providers to ensure a safe and effective fitness journey during this transformative period. Embrace and celebrate the remarkable resilience and adaptability of the human body throughout this incredible process.
Learn more about training pregnant and postpartum clients in our Exercise for Pre and Postnatal Clients course.
- Nascimento, S. L., Surita, F. G., & Cecatti, J. G. (2012). Physical exercise during pregnancy: a systematic review. Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology, 24(6), 387-394. https://doi.org/10.1097/GCO.0b013e328359f131
- Pivarnik, J. M., Chambliss, H. O., Clapp, J. F., Dugan, S. A., Hatch, M. C., Lovelady, C. A., Mottola, M. F., & Williams, M. A. (2006). Impact of physical activity during pregnancy and postpartum on chronic disease risk. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 38(5), 989-1006.
- Artal, R., & O’Toole, M. (2003). Guidelines of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 37(1), 6-12. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bjsm.37.1.6
- National Health Service. (2018). Keep active in pregnancy. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/exercise/ [Accessed 19 Sept. 2023].