Safe exercises to do pre & post birth

Postpartum | Wellbeing | Pregnancy | | Charlie Launder


When it comes to exercise in pregnancy and into early motherhood you’ll be pleased, and maybe surprised to hear that there is far more that you can do than you can’t.

The top priority is to keep you and the baby safe, and the next thing on the list is to help your body to prepare for recovery in the best way possible. So, when you see something that says you shouldn’t do this exercise if you’re pregnant, it’s not always “dangerous” it may just be that it’s not recommended because it might hinder your recovery. We all deal with pregnancy in our own ways so what works for one may not work for another, but apart from activities where there’s an obvious risk of falling, such as sports like football, rugby, netball or skiing, you can continue with the type of exercise you feel comfortable doing, so long as you listen to your body and adjust accordingly.

Here are some things that you may not know you CAN do during pregnancy.

You CAN lift weights

In fact, not only can you lift weights, but if you are physically able to then you should. Building strength in pregnancy is really important for maintaining a good level of support for your joints while the hormone relaxin causes the ligaments surrounding them to become more elastic. This will help to minimise pain in your hips, knees, pelvis and back, which will make your pregnancy a lot more enjoyable.

Once your baby is here you will need that strength more than ever. Yes, your baby is tiny to look at, but holding them all day long will play havoc with your back and arms so you’ll thank yourself for keeping strong.

You CAN run

Not everyone wants to run during pregnancy, and it’s certainly not essential, but if you enjoy running and are experienced in it, then you can absolutely continue. It is important that you listen to your body, and if you start to get any niggles or feelings of discomfort then see this as your sign to either slow it down, shorten your distance or stop running altogether for now.

After you’ve had your baby, running is definitely not the first thing you should be doing, and actually it is recommended to wait up to six months until you hit the pavements, so you have the time to build up your strength and prepare your body for its return to impact.

You CAN swim

Swimming is a great form of exercise during pregnancy - it is a non-impact way of getting some cardio in, it is really kind to your joints, and it is so nice to feel weightless in the water – especially towards the end of your pregnancy.

Some things to bear in mind with swimming: if you have pelvic girdle pain it is advised to steer away from the breast stroke leg action, as this can aggravate it. Make use of floats to help adapt swimming styles when you need to, and go at a pace that suits you.

Post natal wise, you just need to make sure you have stopped bleeding, and any scars have healed up, so talk to your doctor about it and they can advise you on when it’s right for you to start again.

You CAN work on your core

I’ve written a whole article specifically on core training during and after pregnancy, but the long and short of it is that yes, you absolutely can keep a strong core during this time and it is actually very important to do so if you can.

The way in which you do your core exercises will change, however. No crazy circuits crammed with sit ups and v sits leaving you not being able to laugh for days! Instead you want to activate your core muscles whilst you do every single exercise in your workout, learning how to use your breath to engage the correct muscles and training your core to stabilise you when you’re off balance - preparing for life holding a baby in one arm!

Once you have had your baby, it is more important than ever to rehab your core muscles, rebuilding that brain to muscle connection and steadily strengthening up again. I say steady for a reason, as it must not be done too quickly, otherwise you will find that it is not effective. It takes time to rebuild core strength after pregnancy, and you will definitely get there – but rushing it will actually have the opposite effect.

You CAN do yoga and Pilates

I am putting these two in the same category because they are both no impact, slow moving forms of exercise.

In the early days of pregnancy some women can feel horribly sick and these forms of exercise can provide a light way of moving without worsening these feelings. There is no jumping up and down or lifting heavy things and you can still move your body but in a gentle way. Some yoga studios aren’t insured to have you practice with them until you’ve had your 12 week scan, but it is safe to do so as long as, as with everything, you listen to your body and only do things that feel ok.

Both yoga and pilates are also brilliant ways to ease back into exercising post birth for those very same reasons – they are no impact, gentle and slow, but extremely effective at rebuilding those mind to muscle connections and reminding yourself how to engage your pelvic floor muscles through gentle movement.