Q&A: Fitness and Pregnancy
Updated: Nov 15, 2019
A couple days ago, I asked some of you what you wanted to know about postpartum fitness! I got some great questions that led to fantastic conversations. These stayed live on my instagram stories for a day, but I feel like they deserve a more permanent place for you all. Here they are:
1. How do I know what is and isn't going to hurt me?
For the most part, your body will give you signals. You want to make sure you know what those signals will look like. If you're feeling heaviness, pain, pressure in your pelvis or leakage, you've done more than your body is prepared to handle at that moment.
If it feels good, it's typically not going to hurt you... but this is not a no pain no gain situation. During pregnancy, you're typically safe to continue what you were doing prior to becoming pregnant. Postpartum, you want to make sure you slowly, gradually, reintroduce exercise. Slow and steady wins this race.
With that said, it's always helpful to have an assessment by a pelvic floor PT to gain a better understanding of your individual strengths and weaknesses! If you're struggling to figure out how to move in a pain free way, that's what we're here for.
2. Running feels weird, is that normal?
If running feels weird, I would be wondering why. Does it feel weird because your body is changing, and that's just weird? Or does it feel weird as in painful, heaviness in your pelvis, leakage, feelings of weakness or decreased control/balance?
If you feel those, you may have some weakness that you should address before you continue on your runs. Running is a high impact exercise. That means that it taxes your core and your pelvic floor, two areas that experience major changes during and following pregnancy. The symptoms I listed above aren't symptoms that I would ignore.
The other thing I would want to know is this: does it get better or worse while you continue to run? If it gets better- that's a good sign! Maybe you need a slower, more intentional warm up. If it keeps feeling worse, I would pause and address the problem.
3. When can I start back at CrossFit?
Typically, you won't be cleared for exercise before 6 weeks postpartum. For those itching to go back to higher intensity sports, and who are feeling well, I recommend beginning gentle strengthening as early as 1-2 weeks postpartum. That way, by the time you're cleared at 6 weeks, some foundation is set.
Once you've done the foundational work (ideally for 4-6 weeks), and you're symptom free, you may be ready to try your first gym workout! Your first day back, and first weeks back, I would recommend starting with body weight movement. From there I would slowly progress sets, reps and weights, checking in with your body each step of the way.
Better slow and steady than fast and injured.
4. What is the most important thing for pregnant women working out to remember?
Your body is going through changes. A workout might feel good one week and not so good the next. If it hurts or doesn't feel quite right, modify or replace instead of pushing through. The signals that you're pushing too hard during pregnancy aren't the same as they were before, so be mindful of leakage, pain or pressure in your pelvis.
Movement is medicine. Even those on bedrest can incorporate movement into their pregnancy. Don't wait for pain to go away with childbirth, address it when it comes so you can stay active.
In summary: keep moving in ways that feel good, and modify or pause ways that don't.
5. Does walking really count as exercise? Even if you've always walked and don't feel it?
Walking absolutely counts as exercise! Walking for 30 minutes a day can increase cardiovascular fitness, strengthen bones and muscles, improve your balance, and reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis. A brisk walk can raise your heart rate, release endorphins and keep your mind and body strong.
You're right, it doesn't feel the same as a HIIT workout or spin class, but the benefits are still innumerable.
6. How do you know if it's too hot to exercise, even when you're never too hot?
This is a tough question. It's even more tough because the guidelines and research aren't quite as clear as we'd like them to be. A few research studies have tried to give us numbers to rely on, and what they found was this:
Exercise at 77 degrees Fahrenheit and 45% relative humidity is safe for pregnant folks. (1)
Now, we know it gets WAY hotter than that in the southern summers and I know plenty of pregnant folks who exercise in higher heats than this. That guideline is not meant to be a rule as much as it is exactly that, a guideline.
Be sure you're staying hydrated and if you experience dizziness, blurred vision, feelings of your heart pounding or notice you're not sweating, stop and hydrate.
For more specific guidelines for your pregnancy, I recommend having a conversation with your provider. Every pregnancy is different.
7. What good pelvic floor exercises can I do postpartum?
While there are exercise most postpartum people can benefit from (I'm working on an e-book to address this exact topic!) everyone's pelvic floor needs something a little different. Some need strengthening, some need stretching and relaxation. There's no one size fits all answer for the pelvic floor.
For instance, did you have tearing during childbirth? If you did, your muscles may be guarding and tensing around the site of the scar, causing you pain or leakage. Or were your nerves damaged, and is your brain now having trouble finding these muscles? If you had a c-section, your muscles may be weakened as a result of months of strain during pregnancy. Your muscles maybe tight because of the c-section scar causing guarding in your abdomen and thus your pelvic floor.
As you can see, it can go either way regardless of the birth that you had. If you want to know what's truly happening with your pelvic floor, see a pelvic floor PT and have a pelvic floor examination. This will allow them to help you create a pelvic floor rehabilitation program for your body and your needs.
Have any more questions? Schedule your free consultation today to ask away! Follow along on instagram for more Ask Me Anythings and blog updates!
1. Heat stress and fetal risk. Environmental limits for exercise and passive heat stress during pregnancy: a systematic review with best evidence synthesis. Ravaneli, N. 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29496695