I have had great success with clients planning / preparing for pregnancy, carrying their child and recovering or bouncing back after birth. I must say, I have not had a child, and I'm sure that later on in life I will have some better insights on the FEELINGS involved in the scenario. But I am very in tune with my clients, and extremely in tune with their anatomies. Given the courses I've taken and the experience I have, I know that I can help those trying to stay healthy and fit through their pregnancy as well as afterward. It is very important to listen to your doctor as well as your trainer, and better yet to put the two into communication with one another, should your pregnancy provide any complications or even specific considerations of any kind. If you are trying to get pregnant, make sure that your folic acid levels are where they are supposed to be, and that your BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS ARE STABLE! You've heard me talk about this! It's important for everyone, and is really one of the most important things to accomplish if you are attempting to bear a child.
Staying fit through your pregnancy is a wildly good idea. Now is the time you have to start considering the well-being of another human for which you are solely responsible, but that doesn't mean that sitting with your feet up through the whole thing, or mowing an extra 500 calories a day is going to be in the best interest of the baby! A healthy YOU equals a healthy baby. Most doctors recommend an extra 150 calories per day (contingent upon the individual, and the term). So the permission / urging to eat everything in sight is not such a great thing. This is quite an extensive topic, so I don't think I'll get into nutrition too much for this entry. We'll keep it to fitness. But later on, I will discuss what foods to avoid and which to eat more of during this physically fascinating time.
If you are already training, are already running or strength training, or are committed to other activities, it is usually safe to keep them up. You should be given the go-ahead by your doctor, because he / she may understand more about the specifics of your physical condition that you or I would. It is not a great idea to begin new activities, if they are out of the realm of familiarity for your body. Your body will change (your hips, for example, can become or feel much looser, urging you to perhaps push your range of motion beyond what you normally would - and this can potentially prevent the ligaments from finding their way back to normal post pregnancy). As your body changes, you need to still be very practical about your activities, despite what you may feel tempted to do at times. The most important thing to consider in your fitness is RISK vs. BENEFIT. Your trainer will know what activities are more risky than beneficial to you, and are more beneficial and less risky. Any activity in which you are prone to falling on your stomach, for the most obvious example, should be avoided. Rollerblading or skiing are probably not the best activities! Hot yoga is another one you might want to avoid, as a hot environment can exacerbate an already-heated pregnant woman. Too much heat exposure can cause birth defects. Your own body heat can be dissipated easily, but a hot environment is a different story.
You may have heard to never do any activity on your back, which draws blood away from the baby. There is a grey area here... typically 30 -60 seconds is okay, but it is best to make sure the torso is higher than the lower body. For example, rather than doing a bosu crunch with tailbone at the very top of the ball, bring the tailbone closer to the floor, so that you are a bit closer to being upright. Planks are great, but as you put on more weight in your midsection, your back will become tighter and tighter, just from walking around (as it will be in an arched position). You may not last as long in your planks, trying to straighten that lower spine with the strength in your abdominals. Try doing a plank on a stability ball (with a trainer, please) for a slight incline, and an extra stability challenge to really recruit your rooted core muscles (from which you will muster strength for delivery).
It is vitally important to strengthen the adductors (inner thighs) for a potentially easier delivery. If you are strong on delivery day, you will have a much better time helping that baby find its way out.
It was once advised that pregnant women should never increase their heart rates above 140 bpm. Although this is a safe guideline, for a very fit client, the rules can loosen up a little bit. It is a good idea to monitor breathing, make sure you can talk easily, and you should never feel dizzy, have blurred vision or headaches. Pregnant women tend to have lower blood pressure, so you need to stand up more slowly, move from exercise to exercise a bit more slowly than you normally would.
If your joints are wobbly and much less stable than normal, it's time to modify and regress.
My last clip of advice - DO KEGELS! Women should be doing them anyway. Nobody wants the incontinence that so often accompanies pregnancy as well as the post-partum stage... it is worth it to invest some time and effort into these exercises. If you don't know what they are, google them or contact me privately. Do as many as you can, everyday... the more the better.
For more information, check out www.acog.org to seek the advice of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. I attended a great lecture this weekend by Annette Lang, which filled in some gaps of my knowledge on this topic, so I'd like to thank her for her information.
If you have more specific questions about hormones, risks or conditions, I have answers. Don't hesitate to contact me. And enjoy that growing relationship with both your baby and your body!