If your pregnancy is progressing normally, there is no reason to stop exercising. This article discusses responsible exercise during your pregnancy, training the abdominal muscles and how to get back in shape after the birth.
What can you safely do?
In the first trimester, when your belly isn’t that big yet, you can usually still do everything you did before your pregnancy. You may be tired or out of breath more quickly. Listen to these signals and then take it easier. If you are in pain, stop the exertion and rest. Because of the increasing extra weight you carry, your joints and tendons are subjected to more strain. Because of this, things like jumping or running can get increasingly difficult (painful). Never continue when you are in pain; you don’t have to be brave or carry on.
It is also not necessary to suddenly start exercising fanatically if you didn’t do this before your pregnancy. At least half an hour of moderately intensive exercise every day is sufficient. Find out whether you meet this guideline. If you are not a sportswoman, but you would like to get more exercise, then swimming, cycling or walking are good options. It is good if you are able to feel when it is time to stop. Your body will indicate this perfectly. Signals are: a Braxton Hicks contraction, shortness of breath when resting, dizziness, headache, muscle weakness or pain in your chest.
Training your abs during pregnancy
After the first trimester, training your abs is no longer responsible. Even with heavy lifting (often) you use the straight abdominal muscles. This is why you should try to avoid doing that. The straight abdominal muscles lose elasticity because they are stretched during a pregnancy. You can see these muscles as a stretched rubber band you are trying to strengthen, even though you will only stretch them out further because of your growing belly. If the abdominal muscles separate too much, this can cause a tear in the tendon, called diastase.
After the delivery you can feel for yourself whether your muscles have grown toward each other again. Lie on you back with your knees pulled up. Place your feet on the ground. Place your fingers just above your navel. Lift your head a little. Feel with your fingers whether a little hole is created in between the two halves of the stomach muscles.
If the opening you feel is bigger than two centimeters (approx. two fingers) then it is wise to wait a while with training until the space in between the muscles is about one centimeter. About 6 to 8 weeks after the delivery you will be able to train your abs again.
Getting fit after your pregnancy
Can’t wait to start exercising again? An example of what you can do soon after the delivery is, while lying down on your back, tensing your stomach, buttock, leg or pelvic floor muscles and letting go again. This brings you back in contact with your body safely and you feel what you are still capable of. Carefully try out movements, stop if it hurts. Watch your breathing. You will be able to do a little bit more each day. This is often a pleasant new sensation. You are getting back into contact with your somewhat battered, but also strong and beautiful body. Stretching and lightly moving your neck and shoulder muscles can feel pleasant.