"My body didn’t feel like mine and I didn’t have and couldn’t find the information I needed to allow me to keep working out safely."
Staying active in pregnancy was vitally important to me. I worked out regularly and feel physically and mentally better when I’m strong and active.
I’d had a miscarriage 4 months before becoming pregnant and wanted to make sure that I was sensible and well informed. I was confident that exercising was better than not, and that I could keep doing my usual activities while I could manage. I was already going to a pilates class with a brilliant teacher and I kept that up through pregnancy. But, when I went online looking for information on other exercise, it was sorely lacking.
I established that, besides the obvious don’t-get-whacked-in-the-bump and anything medical, I might want to avoid being on my back eventually, the relaxin hormone could mean accidental strain, and I might have general balance issues (I did not). Beyond this, I found very little. Walking = good, horse riding = bad. But what about weight training? Overheating (I eventually found some academic research from the US that concluded that the degree to which you’d need to heat up during exercise to damage the baby was almost impossible)? Alternatives when you couldn’t lift above your head, lie on your back etc?
Armed with what I found, I planned to carry on as normal. Easier said than done when you feel like the contents of your bowel might fall out on the treadmill (that passed by about month 2-3). My next hurdle was telling class instructors I was pregnant. The first recommended that I did not participate, although I’d attended her classes for months and she knew my capabilities. Even when I said I’d happily modify exercises if needed, she wasn’t keen. I stopped going to her classes. I was already emotionally fragile and felt so watched and judged. Between mixed feelings about motherhood and the miscarriage, I couldn’t be in that environment. I tried another class, and when I spoke to the instructor, she didn’t seem concerned, but then couldn’t answer any questions and had no idea about modifications. I stopped going to classes and did my own thing in the gym. Until doubt got the better of me.
Feeling totally lost, I started researching pre-natal PTs. My body didn’t feel like mine and I didn’t have and couldn’t find the information I needed to allow me to keep working out safely. I was fortunate to find an amazing trainer near where I live. From the first consultation, I felt in safe hands. She was knowledgeable and confident, explained things clearly and detailed not just what I may or may not be able to do, but why too.
I worked out with her until the week before I had my baby. She helped restore my confidence massively and I was doing pilates, swinging kettlebells, lifting weights, spinning and swimming all the way through my pregnancy. I ended up having an emergency section, which meant I was out of action and recovering for quite some time. I imagine I am still recovering. But my core is strong, and I’m back doing everything I did before pregnancy (my baby is now 8 months). Undoubtedly keeping fit through pregnancy has helped my recovery. My abs are fine and I feel strong. While it wasn’t a goal, I was the same weight a week or two post birth as I was when I got pregnant. Getting back to fitness has helped me regain sanity and helps me feel energised and balanced.
If I was to give any advice to others, I’d say keep moving. Do something. If you’re not confident with exercise, walking and swimming are good bets. Being strong and having physical endurance doesn’t just help before and after birth, but during too - THAT is a workout! And don’t give up after. Be kind to yourself and make sure you’re recovering. But then do keep moving. Again, even walking will do the job.
The one thing I’d like to see change, is clarity and availability of information. I was really lucky to find an amazing trainer, but also to be in a position to pay for that - I don’t take that for granted. Similarly, some of the information I eventually found, I had to search long and hard for. Fitness and wellness, especially in pregnancy should be for everyone.