Written by Angele Satariano
You’ve probably heard it plenty of times, ‘exercising during pregnancy is beneficial for both mum and baby’. Indeed it’s true. Keeping active during pregnancy will help you sleep better, lower the risk of gestational diabetes and so much more. But in this journal post, I want to share with you some different reasons why you should train during your pregnancy and ideally even before getting pregnant. They are perhaps the lesser-known benefits and they are a result of specialised pre-natal exercise. I’ve seen these first hand through the experience of my clients.
1. Quicker Post-Natal Recovery
This is a huge one and that’s why it’s first on my list. Being fit and active prior to getting pregnant and during pregnancy will have an impact on your post natal journey.
Let me explain why: When you train, the body gets accustomed to tissue damage and subsequently, repair. After every training session, your body is repairing the ‘damage’ caused during training. This is when adaptation takes place and you get fitter. The more this happens, the more the body learns how to be efficient in the healing process.
Let’s apply this to the post natal body. In the post natal period the body is in healing mode, repairing damage to the core as a result of pregnancy and child birth. If the woman was active prior and during her pregnancy, her body will be accustomed to the damage/recovery process. This in turn will help her recovery to be quicker and more effective than a woman who was mostly sedentary.
Some mums who attend my classes performed frequent high intensity exercise before falling pregnant and continued with training throughout their pregnancy (they followed a specialised pre-natal program). I have a few mums who are ex athletes too. I’ve noticed how these women tend to have a faster recovery post birth and get back into high intensity exercise quicker.
2. Core Connection
This one is also super important and funnily enough something that many women are mistaken about. On more than one occasion I’ve had women ask me during my pre-natal fitness class (Baby On Board) whether it’s ok to contract your abdominal muscles during pregnancy (answer below). I can understand why this might be a little confusing, given that it is a well known fact that traditional core exercises are not suitable for pregnancy. However, many pregnant women unfortunately think that they should avoid contracting their core entirely during pregnancy. This is very far from true.
The answer is YES! YES you can and you MUST contract your abdominal muscles during pregnancy! It is absolutely vital that you remain connected with your core throughout your pregnancy (core includes pelvic floor too!). If you don’t activate (contract) your core at all during the 9 months of pregnancy, there is a big chance that you will lose the connection with these muscles and forget how to activate them altogether. This is undesirable both during pregnancy and afterwards.
It is absolutely necessary to activate your core when needed (e.g. when carrying/working out/doing daily activities). It helps you to be stronger in the activity and prevents you from putting pressure on other parts of your core (such as your back!).
Training the core during pregnancy will be very different to how it’s done traditionally. Traditional core exercises will put too much pressure on the core (including the pelvic floor) and could have an adverse effect on the woman’s core and increase chances of a persisting diastasis recti and leaky pelvic floor.
Post natal recovery will mainly focus on rehab of the core and rebuilding core strength. Therefore, If a woman uses and remains connected with her core throughout her pregnancy, she will be in a much better position to rehab her core (hence have an easier recovery) in the postnatal period.
3. Core awareness during labour
Linking on from the previous point, I’ve had many of my clients report back to me after the birth of their baby, and tell me how useful the classes where and how they helped them during labour. I’m always curious to hear their experience and ask ‘why?’!
Core connection is one of the main reasons they mention. Your baby is born via your core, so being aware of it, connected to it and in control of it will be a very big help during labour. For e.g. it is a fact that gently contracting the abdominal wall at the right time during labour will help to push the baby out. During birth, it’s also extremely important to know how to relax the pelvic floor (that’s why it’s necessary to give importance to the relaxation phase of any pelvic floor exercises!).
They also mention that learning how to breathe properly during exercise was beneficial and they used it during labour. Again, it is well known that proper breathing during labour will first of all help the baby to come out, but also avoid putting unnecessary pressure on the core, hence reducing the risk of injury. In fact, the breathing that I teach during my prenatal fitness class can (and should be) applied to labour. I think it’s amazing that these women have actually done so and have felt that it helped them!
4. Feel good factor
Everybody knows that exercise releases endorphins (happy hormones). I really notice how mums love to workout because it helps them to feel very much like themselves, in spite of all the changes their body is going through. They always leave class feeling happy after a good sweat, even if they admit that they didn’t feel like turning up for the session!
Exercise is something ‘addictive’. The more you do it, the more you want it, and the less you do it, the less you miss it. If you have no desire to workout, it might be because you haven’t done so in a long time. Remember that it’s never too late to start, whether you’ve just started thinking about starting a family, or are already in your third trimester, exercise will benefit you in many ways. Also remember to give it a chance. It might not be your favourite thing to do, but the more you attend and become accustomed to it, the more you’ll start to enjoy it and feel the benefits.
Education is power, knowledge is wealth! Share this with the women in your life ❤️
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