Are you currently trying to conceive? Research shows that the right kind of exercise can improve your chances of getting pregnant, help you have a healthier pregnancy and delivery, and even give birth to a healthier baby.
But what's the "right" exercise?
Working out isn't the end-all-be-all for building a better pregnancy (nutrition, sleep, and stress management are a few other priorities we can think of). But it can and does make a huge impact, especially when you focus on these three areas:
Conditioning Your Cardiovascular System
At Move Your Bump, we see pregnancy as one of the most important life events a woman can go through. Improving your cardiovascular conditioning through intense exercise is your bona fide way of training and preparing for this major life change which affects your body (and brain) in so many surprising ways.
Blood plasma volume increases by as much as 50% during pregnancy. This through-the-roof rise makes sure your body is prepared to handle the increased demands of pregnancy and can provide sufficient blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the developing fetus.
With conditioning exercise, you improve your blood pressure and strengthen your heart before baby even comes, which means your heart will be better suited to meet the increased demands placed on it.
Conditioning exercises, especially my high intensity interval training (HIIT) protocols, boosts your heart health and prepares the organ for increased prenatal demands. I have my clients do my cardio protocols and I do them HARD- until they are about 2 months from (trying for) conception. In that 4 month (or more if we have more time) period, I really like to challenge and build their cardio system and take their cardio fitness to the next level.
This pays off in TWO folds after they get pregnancy and their blood volume goes through the roof. My clients handle that transition with ease, b/c I have trained them for it. At 2 months out of trying to conceive I do have them start considering the research on too much intensity while TTC though, and what we need to be aware of, which I go over with them in detail (with research cited) inside my programs in their move your bump portal.
And let's not forget about other benefits of cardiovascular conditioning, including stress relief and reduced inflammation. Both of these create a healthier in utero environment and can make it easier to get pregnant!
By the way, if you're already a highly fit and healthy woman, don't assume you'll have to give up your beloved exercise routine once you're carrying a baby—even if it's high intensity. More and more studies involving animal and human subjects suggest that high intensity exercise isn't as strongly linked with an increased risk of negative health effects (for mom or baby) as previously believed.12,13,14
Conversely, women who are sedentary prior to conception will need to take a more moderate approach to their pregnancy exercise. To be clear, they STILL should be exercising (as always, with their doctor's supervision), because exercise benefits them and the development and long-term health of their children.
In other words, if you've been working out hard before and during your TTC phase, expect to enjoy fewer exercise restrictions once you're pregnant. It is safe and good for you and your plus one! And you haven't been working out, it's still super important to start—just know that the pre-pregnancy and pregnancy phases aren't the right times to start experimenting with a new intense program.
In TTC phase particularly, it's not about over-training or going as hard as possible all the time...but it's not about taking it super easy, either. The trick is to finding the sweet spot and working with someone their knows their shit, if you don't know yours.
Improve the strength of your posterior chain.
Pregnancy anatomy 101: as your little one grows bigger in your uterus, your center of gravity will start to shift forward, which increases the relative load imposed through your lower back (because physics). In order to ensure you can properly handle this biomechanical strain and minimize the risk of problems like back pain and excessive anterior pelvic tilting, it's critical to maximize the strength of your posterior chain before you conceive.
The posterior chain includes your deep spinal erectors and your glutes—who knew your quest for booty gains can help you have a healthier pregnancy?! A tip- your average bootcamp class is not helping your cause unless they have TRX bands and pull-up bars, hip thrust machines or set up and heavy deadlifts that you are doing ON THA REG. I have seen so many peoples bodies become imbalanced over the years bc group training studios DON'T have balanced programs bc of the lack of programming from lack of quality trainers, lack of proper equipment at their studio to make that programming even possible from their trainers, or the overall protocol of the workout does not serve your posterior chain in the way it needs to when you are going into pregnancy (or recovering from in that matter). I hate to talk shit, and I'm not really trying to, I'm just saying for my client, she needs a really smart program for this and it's V difficult to find in the group fitness world. It's not impossible, but it is rare and honestly getting more rare as time goes on. This is actually why I LIKE crossfit so much. They are the only group training concept that has exploded but still trains smart. And I say that loosely bc for every 1 great CF box there are 10 that are terrible. So you just really have to learn this stuff yourself is what I am saying and know how to apply it or where you should or shouldn't be working out.
Learn how to properly breathe and activate your core.
Once you become pregnant, your beautiful growing bump will change the dynamics and position of your core muscles, which are all neurologically in sync with each other...in an ideal world. The problem is, since so many of us spend decades sitting in chairs and using shallow breathing patterns, the coordinated action of our core (including the abs, diaphragm, pelvic floor, inner obliques, and transversus abdominus) is often disrupted even before we conceive. When we layer on the biomechanical and hormonal changes of pregnancy, lots of problems can develop in the postpartum period, including pain with sex, bladder leakage, ab separation, and that darn mommy pooch.
Doing supplemental exercises to retrain your core can minimize or even prevent many of these complications. The pre-conception stage is the perfect time to do this, so you'll go into your pregnancy with better strength and stability and minimize any issues that you have right now with activation, posture, strength and positioning (and everything I talked about in my stories today).
Plus, by knowing how to breathe more fully, you'll be able to get more oxygen in for your little one once you conceive! This includes but is not limited to: deep core stabilization and activation drills, protocols and exercises. This includes breath work, proper posture and positioning throughout movements and stationary work in your daily life.
This is not about crunches or planks- this is about progressive overload strength training to build core strength, deep activation drills to build core strength, breath work to build core strength and most importantly- that it's all being done as a team and in-sync with each-other.
When it comes to a solid exercise program, what we need is consistency with a sound and appropriate plan, one that supports lean body weight and ideal internal environment for conception and pregnancy for about 6 months leading up to when you start TTC.
My exercise programs offered at Move Your Bump are designed with every mama in mind and can be accommodated to every stage of pregnancy, health status, and fitness level. Our carefully curated workouts are customizable, designed for safety and effectiveness, and intended to help every mom or mom-to-be find her sweet spot.
As for all you moms-to-be in the TTC phase, we'd love for you check out what our workouts are like. We combine high intensity interval training, metabolic stress training, and traditional strength training in a challenging and FUN protocols that will help you prepare for your future pregnancy like a boss. You can learn more at www.moveyourbump.mom