Exercising In Pregnancy Through The Trimesters

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Exercising In Pregnancy Through The Trimesters

Posted 30 Sep 2017

Pregnancy & Childbirth

Rhian Adams

Exercising In Pregnancy Through The Trimesters

In my previous blog we looked at what it meant to embark on a “Fit Pregnancy” and some of the advantages of exercising throughout your pregnancy.  An Increased likelihood of a shorter labor, less medical interventions during birth and a quicker bounce back to pre-pregnancy body shape were just a few of those benefits.  Check out my previous blog or my video explaining the benefits of staying fit during pregnancy.

Today’s blog will provide you with some general guidelines on how to approach training in each trimester; the modifications and precautions so that we can exercise confidently and safely right up until the birth of our baby.   Exercising during pregnancy may mean shorter workouts, less often and at a slower pace but it’s important that we make the effort to exercise throughout.  Pregnant or not there are always ways to adjust your workout for your fitness and energy levels.

At the end of the blog, I’ve attached a video of MY TEN favorite exercises during pregnancy, that you can do in ALL THREE trimesters.

General guidelines for exercise requirements have changed over the years. The current recommendation for pregnant women with a normal single child pregnancy (not constrained by medical complications) is 5 x 30 minutes per week of moderate exercise.  

“Moderate intensity” exercise is subjective and will be quite different depending on individual fitness levels.  Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is a good way of monitoring this. 

The RPE scale ranges from 1 (sitting on the couch) to 10 (sprinting from a lion).  Moderate intensity would fall at 6 -7 out of 10.

The duration of the session should be determined by how YOU feel that day.  On some days you may find fatigue occurring earlier than other days.

Before any exercise session we want to make sure your body is ready for exercise with a slightly longer warmup than usual and return it gradually with a slow and sustained cool-down post workout to a relaxed state.  So you can stay well hydrated during exercise always carry a big bottle of water with you and have a small nutritious snack prior to exercising, remembering that the baby relies on the available glucose in your body, it's advisable to consume an additional 150-300 calories if exercising during pregnancy; this is additional to the 300 extra calories required each day in the third trimester.

First Trimester

The first trimester is not only a time of possible morning sickness but it can also bring great fatigue.  This is when the baby’s major systems are beginning to form.  Be aware of how you feel, sessions may need to be shorter but women generally find their energy returns in the second trimester.

1. Continue your pre-pregnancy workout routine as far as possible
You will find your resting heart rate is elevated and breathing rate is faster due to your body working harder.  It may increase by 10-20 beats per minute, so it’s important that during exercise we take a little more rest time to steady the heart rate.

2. Start pelvic floor exercises
Pelvic floor exercises will build up strength and stamina to assist with contractions and to support the pelvic floor organs.  Try not to rely on remembering to do them, schedule them purposefully into your day.

3. Start core exercises
Core training is actually one of the most important things you can do for your health during pregnancy and has the biggest impact on abdominal separation and pelvic floor health.  It can help relieve pelvic pain and back pain as well as assist in pushing your baby out!  Avoid any crunch-like / rotational movement that flexes the trunk and instead focus on anti-extension and anti-rotational exercises such as a plank. 

Second Trimester

During the second trimester, making modifications and listening to my body became far more important than it had seemed during the first trimester. If I felt the muscles in my abdominal wall stretching, I immediately switched to an alternative exercise and stopped the initial exercise altogether. If something didn't feel good, I changed it up or didn't do it. The key is to be aware of your body, listen to it and respond to it.

1. Avoid lying on your front and flat on your back
In the second Trimester, the supine position (on your back) can compress the main vein transporting blood from the lower body and inhibit oxygen and blood flow to the baby.  Opt for an incline bench instead of a flat bench for weighted exercises. 

2. Avoid over-stretching and long periods of stretching
During pregnancy a hormone called ‘Relaxin’ is released in your body to ‘relax’ the ligaments and tissue and allow the pelvis to widen for delivery.  Relaxin release gradually increases and peaks around week 14 of pregnancy and can continue to stay high up to ten week post partum. We must be careful that the looser ligaments don’t lead to pulls and strains when overstretching or going too deep into exercises/poses.

3. Cut out any intense sports or activities that put you at risk of falling
Intense sports or contact sports such as squash, hockey or tennis should now be stopped to avoid the risk of falling as your sense of balance may be altered and to avoid any blows to the stomach.  However, you can modify activities or exercises to improve balance to account for the change of center of gravity during pregnancy e.g. Cycle indoors on a stationary bike instead of outside.

Third Trimester

Bodyweight is now increasing at a rate of 0.5 kg per week.  Getting around day to day will now feel like a workout in itself.  It’s important to keep moving even in the last awkward and uncomfortable weeks before birth to help alleviate aches and pains and prepare your body for labor but also be mindful of the rest your body needs.

1. Reduce impact exercises/activities
Activities such as step aerobics, jogging, jumping, or skipping should now be modified to low impact activities such as walking, swimming or indoor cycling.

The downward pressure on the pelvic floor of the increasing size and weight of the uterus, placenta, fetus, and overall pregnancy weight gain can become too much for the stress of burpees, running and jumping!

2. Get up from the floor slowly to avoid injury or loss of balance 
Take care to avoid rapid changes in posture to avoid dizziness or feeling faint. (i.e. from lying or sitting to standing).

3. Modify your exercises
Exercises should be modified throughout the trimesters to make sure they are comfortable and safe whilst also being effective.  In the final stages of your pregnancy this could mean replacing weighted squats with body-weight squats or replacing walking lunges with stationary split squats and near a wall for support. 

Following proper nutrition and exercise advice can profoundly change the experience and outcome of your pregnancy.  Be mindful of how your body feels during and after exercise sessions. If you feel strong, can breathe well and don't feel any discomfort or dizziness with your pregnancy exercise regime then great! Keep it up!  Just watch for any signs that it’s time to back off.

Check out MY TEN favorite exercises to do during pregnancy.  You can do these in ALL THREE trimesters. Keep moving and keep active! In Happiness and Health,


For Online Coaching through the Trimesters please contact me by clicking on Request Advice on my profile page.

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Brian says:

11 months 2 weeks ago
A most helpful article for my wife and I who are expecting our first child shortly. Cheers for that

Mariam says:

11 months 3 weeks ago
I have been reading alot about how to stay fit during my pregnancy and this is definitely one of the better, more succinct ones. Thanks for the practical advice that I will surely put to good use. Miriam

Rhian_Adams says:

11 months 3 weeks ago
Thankyou Mariam that's very encouraging to hear and so glad that it has helped! X

@Curious says:

11 months 3 weeks ago
Some great advice here! I found when I was carrying our children that there is lots of different pieces of advice around, but its really helpful to have it all bundled into one easy to read blog like you've done here. Keep up the good work Enritsch and Rhian ?

Rhian_Adams says:

11 months 3 weeks ago
Thankyou Mary for your kind words. I completely agree and one of the main reasons I decided to write some blogs was to make it easier to find the information we all look for when pregnant. Thankyou and be blessed x

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