One of the most common comments I get from pregnant women is "when I'm not pregnant I'll get back to working out." Barring doctor's orders or conditions that stop you from working out, there should be NO reason that being pregnant stops your workouts. In fact, working out while pregnant has MANY health benefits for both the mom and baby. Now, I am not a doctor, but I am a personal trainer who is pregnant with her 2nd child. I have spoken to many doctors and done a lot of research on this topic, but please don't just take my word for it. Talk to your doctor before beginning any workout routine, especially while pregnant. Below are some tips and summaries of what to expect while working out during pregnancy.
I have found that the first trimester can be the hardest time to workout during pregnancy. Between morning sickness and sheer exhaustion from your body producing hormones and blood, it's just hard to do anything but the basics like eating and sleeping. However, a workout can be as simple as a 20-30 minute walk and the boost of endorphins has been known to help our energy-depleted bodies. Make sure to not do any quick start and stops because of your changing blood pressure, you may get light-headed. To avoid this, simply walk side to side, a la toe-taps, in between exercises or while taking a break.
The 2nd trimester is known to be the best trimester because you have more energy and some women feel amazing. I've never gotten a huge boost from this trimester, but I do notice that I can function almost like normal. As far as workouts go, you can continue whatever workouts you were doing pre-pregnancy with few modifications. Remember that our bodies store more fat while pregnant, our joints loosen, and we lose muscle mass more quickly, therefore staying consistent with building muscle is key. Seriously, lifting weights is safe. You may need to lower the pounds or lengthen your rest times due to blood pressure changes, but you can still do it. You can still run and jump as long as that baby isn't on your bladder. ;) You do have to be careful with twisting the abdomen and will need to widen your stance as the baby gets larger, meaning during squats your feet will be a little wider than shoulders-width. Most women have a big concern about core exercises during pregnancy. Any exercise like a crunch or sit-up will become next to impossible around 20 weeks due to abdominal separation. However, anything that works your pelvic floor like a hip bridge, planks which work your transverse abdominus, aka your human girdle, and side planks that work your obliques, those are all safe! Also, at this point you can still lie on your back if it's comfortable, but I don't recommend being there for longer than 3 minutes. These small changes keep you and the baby safe, but still allow you to do all of your favorites. Exercises to focus on are squats and lunges (you need these muscles for delivery), planks (done with proper form and modifications like dropping to your knees), and isometric exercises , aka holding, to prepare for long hours holding the baby, but also pushing during delivery.
The third trimester required the most modifications and this is where walks as workouts become more regular. Your stance on squats will most definitely be wider. You may notice that your balance is off so please use the wall, a chair, or something for support during lunges and even squats. Any weight bearing exercise for your core or upper body, like push-ups or bird-dog, should be done on all 4s or on an incline. This is to remove pressure of that growing belly on your spine. You can still strengthen your lower back and pelvic floor while on hands and knees vs. on your back. Leg lifts are a big favorite in preparing for delivery. You may also want to start sitting on a stability ball in order to let your hips naturally widen as you get closer to your due date. The old standby of walking is great for this as well. No matter how tired you are, safely try walking 3-5 times a week. Even you doctor will say this is a great way to prep for baby.
Here's the thing. Safety is key. You know your body and if you don't recognize this changing, moving, growing thing that is your body simply try and pay attention and alter your plans as needed. With my first pregnancy, I hated jumping starting at 8 weeks pregnant, but with this pregnancy I am still doing limited jumping exercises at 22 weeks. I had severe hip issues my first pregnancy and nothing relieved them, while this pregnancy I have found that working out and stretching carefully with yoga and Pilates has really helped alleviate similar issues. Also, be gentle with yourself. There is no need to go 100%, your body is already working overtime. A little goes a long way with a pregnancy workout and it will also make your recovery postpartum MUCH easier. Always drink a lot of water; I try for an ounce per pound. Be sure to talk to your doctor and when in doubt listen to your body first. I just wanted to write this because I don't want women to be scared of being active during pregnancy. I want the fear and stigma of working out during pregnancy to go away, because the benefits are too great to be ignored.