SHOULD PREGNANT WOMEN LIFT WEIGHTS?
A question we get asked regularly on our personal trainer course is; ‘Should pregnant women exercise and lift weights?’
There’s no right answer to this, the main reason is each person is different. However, in most cases, if the mother to be is an experienced trainer, her health status is good and there are no complications with the pregnancy, then in most cases there is no reason to stop training completely.
Having said this, we do recommend that pregnant women who do continue training adapt the way they train and train ‘smart’. With this in mind, I have decided to outline a few considerations to make when pregnant and when exercising:
- As pregnancy progresses the mother’s coordination and balance can become jeopardised due to the shift in centre of gravity and also the extra weight she’s carrying.
- Joints become less stable as the pregnancy develops. This is due to the release of a hormone called Relaxin. Relaxin is a protein hormone and is at its highest from around the 14th week of pregnancy. Relaxin is responsible for Relaxin soft tissue attachments such as ligaments and as a result joints become less stable and are at a higher risk of injury.
- Avoid exercises which encourage the Valsalva maneuver. The Valsalva maneuver is exercising whilst holding your breath and tensing your entire body. This will inevitably spike blood pressure and in a pregnant woman whose total blood volume could reach an extra 60% is not good.
- Avoid excessive overhead exercise, especially after week 16.
- As well as the above, it’s also not recommended to exercise in the prone or supine position post 16 weeks, however this can be adjusted easily by elevating the bench. E.g. perform an incline bench press instead of a flat bench press.
- I also recommend avoiding fatiguing a pregnant lady like you would a non-pregnant client. The main reason is that they are more prone to fatigue than other clients and quite often this can result in trips and falls which is the last thing you want!
Although the above are considerations to make when exercising whilst pregnant, I have also outlined the benefits of prenatal exercise below:
- Social interaction with other prenatal gym goers
- Exercising during pregnancy can result in better outcomes for both the mother and the baby. I recommend you read ‘Exercising through your pregnancy’ by James Clapp who published a book outlining study after study proving that prenatal exercise results in less complications during birth.
- Strength training will also improve stability, balance and coordination which is important for prenatal women as these skills can diminish during pregnancy.
- Improving or maintaining cardiovascular fitness will help the mother during pregnancy as giving birth can be one of the most draining experiences.
- Faster recovery – prenatal exercise can improve the mother’s recovery rate.
In summary, exercising during pregnancy is a good thing, however we can’t stress enough on seeking a professionals help and guidance before you do as each individual and each pregnancy is different.