As a mom of two, fitness pro, and co-founder of Every Mother, I’ve learned a lot over the years about what kinds of prenatal workouts and pelvic floor exercises really deliver when it comes to preparing for an easier birth and postpartum recovery. Here are my top tips for any expectant mother:
Doing what you love is a fun, approachable way to begin a pregnancy fitness routine. For example, a brisk walk outside with a friend is a perfect synergy of moderate cardio, human connection and the calming benefits of nature. If you have other go-to activities that meet The American College of Obstetrics and Gynocologists’ safety guidelines, those are great too! A healthy target is to move your body 30 minutes per day, most days of the week.
Keep it moderate.
How much intensity is safe and beneficial? When performing aerobic exercise like walking, hiking, swimming or stationary cycling, an ideal target to aim for is to pass the “talk test.” This means you should be able to carry on a light conversation, but you should not be able to sing an opera. Slightly winded, yes; breathless, no. A good sign that you have met your intensity goal: post-workout, you should feel invigorated (not drained or exhausted). Pregnancy workouts actually boost energy!
Prioritize core and pelvic floor.
There are a lot of myths and misinformation about core exercise and Kegels during pregnancy, which has deterred some pregnant women from engaging these muscles at all out of fear of causing harm. In reality, preparing the core and pelvic floor muscles with safe, pregnancy-specific exercises prepares you for a stronger and more empowered labor and recovery. I recommend incorporating relaxation exercises to open and relax the pelvic “door” as well as strengthening exercises to maintain healthy tone and function. But not all strengthening exercises are created equal. Pregnancy is not the time for crunches, crossover crunches, or full planks—even many classical Pilates exercises are contraindicated during pregnancy. To eliminate the confusion, Every Mother offers an evidence-based, OB-endorsed online prenatal exercise program informed by pelvic health physical therapists with daily exercise prescriptions and express prenatal workouts for each trimester. Every woman deserves real information and practical guidance to navigate pregnancy with confidence that the time she devotes to exercise will prepare her core and pelvic floor well for the rigors of labor.
Train for strength.
A well-designed prenatal strength training regimen counters the postural imbalances of pregnancy to keep you feeling your best while you build strength and stamina for birth. Strength training can feel intimidating at first, especially if you are starting now during pregnancy. Don’t worry! You don’t need a gym membership or a ton of special equipment. Every Mother’s online instructors coach you through each prenatal workout step-by-step in the comfort of your own home, and many workouts can be performed with bodyweight only or with a couple basic and accessible items, like a resistance band and a pair of handheld weights (or water bottles!).
Take deep breaths.
Prenatal yoga is a powerful tool to prepare mentally and physically for the act of labor. If you have wonderful prenatal yoga classes near you, and the time and resources to fit them into your schedule, aim to incorporate prenatal yoga into your routine once or twice a week. If not, the Every Mother app has you covered with an abundant library of prenatal yoga sequences that range from 10-30 minutes and will leave you feeling calm and refreshed!
Healthy, balanced movement truly holds the key to minimizing and even avoiding common pregnancy discomforts from back pain to swelling to urinary incontinence. Start small and reach out for support—from friends, family, your partner, and your doctor or midwife. Listen to your body, take rest days as needed, and above all be gracious with yourself. Some days won’t go quite as planned…but that’s ok. Pregnancy, like parenthood, is a marathon, and one that is full of surprises. You will get to the finish line one step at a time.