Pregnancy Fitness

What stage of pregnancy are you at?

  • Trimester 1

    0-12/13 weeks

  • Trimester 2

    13-28 weeks

  • Trimester 3

    28-40/42 weeks

  • Post-pregnancy

    After birth

Pregnancy Fitness

Benefits of maintaining exercise during pregnancy

  • Increases energy and endurance for birth
  • Improves circulation
  • Controls of weight gain during pregnancy
  • Improves sleep patterns
  • Increases muscle and heart strength
  • maintains pelvic floor and core strength
  • Enhanced psychological wellbeing
  • reduces likelihood of post partum depression
  • Prevents back pain
  • reduces risks of blood clots and swelling
  • faster postnatal recovery
  • Helps prevent wear & tear on joints which become loosened during pregnancy

Research by Clapp (1998) showed that Women who carried on exercising during their pregnancy displayed the results of a

  • 75% decrease in the need for forceps or caesarean section birth
  • 75% decrease in maternal exhaustion
  • 50% decrease in the need for pre labour drugs
  • 50% decrease in the need to intervene due to foetal abnormalities
  • Physically active women were able to return to normal daily tasks 40% faster than less active women.

SmokingCigarette smoking during pregnancy can cause serious health problems to an unborn child

Smoking during pregnancy has been linked to premature labour breathing problems and illnesses causing neo-natal death.

Bad posture causes back pain

Correct your posture regularly

Back pain can be one of the most common pregnancy niggles. There can be many causes but one of the most common is bad posture caused primarily by the weight of the growing baby.  Good Posture is crucial to ensure that you stay free of any extra discomfort during your pregnancy.

  • Continually check your posture as you stand and when performing any exercise
  • Feet hip distance apart, knees soft
  • Lift pubic bone upward toward navel, tailbone downwards towards floor
  • Pull your baby up and in towards spine
  • Natural curve in back not over arched but straight back
  • Shoulders back and down, string pulling your head upright

Un-pasteurised dairy

Un-pasteurised cheese such as Bree

Certain un-pasteurised dairy products should be avoided as there is a possible Link with the listeria Bacterium which can cause miscarriage.

Pregnancy requires an additional 300 Kcals per day

With exercise included another 150-250 Kcals

In total around 500-600 extra Kcals!

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Healthy eating during pregnancy

Healthy eating during pregnancyHealthy eating during pregnancy means eating regular meals of freshly prepared whole foods, along with adequate protein and plenty of both complex carbohydrates and those essential fats.

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Trimester 1

  • Day 1-8 Menstruation
  • Day 9-12 Post-menstruation
  • Day 13-16 Ovulation
  • Day 17-20 Post Ovulation
  • Day 21-24 Early Pre-menstruum
  • Day 25-28 Pre-menstruum
  • Missing a period
  • Nausea and sickness
  • Breast tenderness
  • Emotional change
  • Increased frequently in micturition (Passing urine)

Miscarriages commonly occur in the first trimester and 1 in 5 women experience a miscarriage at this time. If you experience vaginal bleeding or period type pain or cramp you should seek medical attention. If you have a history of miscarriage you should refer to your doctor before undertaking exercise.

The expected delivery date of your baby is calculated as 40-42 weeks from the first day of your last menstrual period. To calculate you EDD add 7 days plus 9 months to the first day of your last menstrual period and this will be your EDD.

In trimester 1 the uterus grows but remains in the pelvis causing pressure on the bladder which can increase the frequency of passing urine.

A woman’s body is actually only preparing for pregnancy during the first two weeks until ovulation. It is unlikely that most women will know they are pregnant until two weeks later. Most pregnancy test begin to pick up the first traces of HCG in the blood or urine at around that time.

Tiredness is very common and so are nausea and vomiting in Trimester 1 so above all listen to your body and respond accordingly. It can be difficult to keep routines in Trimester 1 as your body can be keeping anything but a routine at this time.

Provided that you are feeling well, keeping well hydrated and well nourished, and not over heated or exhausted, exercising will be of benefit to you and will prepare the body for the coming trimesters. If you have been exercising regularly before you were pregnant this is an advantage, however depending on your fitness level at the time of your pregnancy will determine your best activity level during pregnancy.    

The heart rate increases from around 75 beats per minute to almost 90 beats per minute from early in the first trimester. The heart also increases in size by approximately 12% to accommodate the extra work load of pregnancy.

Owing to the influences of oestrogen, extra muscle tissue is laid down in the heart and as a result there are increases in cardiac output and stroke volume. Stroke volume of the heart increase significantly from 65ml to 85ml in the first trimester, reaching a peak at 20 weeks which is maintained until term.

Avoid alcohol especially in the first trimester, a toxic substance found in wine and beers can be transferred onto your baby.

There is evidence that activity that increase the circulation to the pelvis and thighs can help reduce the pain often associated with menstruation.

Trimester 1 is when the baby’s organs are developing which is why it is the most sensitive time as far as the mothers exposure to drugs and chemicals is concerned.


Trimester 2

In trimester 2 the uterus grows upwards and forwards out of the pelvis. In this trimester your baby can also be felt moving.

Hormone levels rise and by relaxing smooth muscle tissue, the hormone relaxin and progesterone affect the stability of your joints.

Great care should be taken with movements and any wide stance exercises should be avoided due to the instability of the joints.

Fat is stored around the abdomen and thighs and is mobilised post-natally through breast-feeding. This will not happen as quickly if the mother does not breast feed. During pregnancy fat stores are spared in preference for carbohydrates for fuel and blood sugar levels can fall rapidly.

Significant changes occur in the musculoskeletal system, with growth of the breasts, uterus and foetus increasing lumbar lordosis (expanding of the belly area putting extra strain on the lumbar spine). Centre of gravity shifts forwards and altering normal balance and posture. 

Urinary tract infections are fairly common in trimester 2 at around 20 weeks.

The weight of the uterus on the Aorta and vena cava may cause hypotensive syndrome (low blood pressure) and this can possibly cause fainting when lying on the back.

  • Reduced joint stability and change in the range of movement
  • Increased laxity of ligaments and pelvic diameters to the hormone relaxin
  • Increased mobility of the symphysis pubis
  • Instability, strain or pain at the joints of the pelvis and spine
  • Spinal curves are increased with increased weight distribution darkens
  • Changes in the centre of gravity due to increase in bulk in the anterior abdomen
  • Weight and shape of the breast change
  • Fat is deposited in the breasts
  • Milk producing tissue is formed
  • Skin pigmentation changes in the breasts
  • The nipples develop and the surrounding areola

The abdominal wall that supports the uterus and the muscles of the abdomen must lengthen to accommodate the enlarging uterus and growing foetus. Hormonal changes and the increasing mechanical stress placed on these structures during pregnancy may result in a painless separation of the abdominal muscles known as Diastasis Recti.

A gap of 3 cm may appear and the abdominal contents may be palpable in the gap. The condition may cause backache as the abdominals are no longer supporting the spine.

  • The linea alba becomes darkened and known as the linea negra
  • Chloasma Gravidarum  (mask of pregnancy) can form over the face
  • Stretch marks can appear over the abdomen, breasts and thighs
  • The skin adapts to changes in the body temperature more quickly. Pregnant women sweat more readily due to increased activity in the sebaceous glands and acne can also occur

Carpal tunnel syndrome can occur from 14 weeks as a result of fluid retention and pressure on the median nerve in the wrists. It causes numbness and stiffness in the fingers and difficulty with fine movements. Specific exercises and ice packs or iced water can help with this.

Trimester 3

The pelvic floor muscles known as the Levator Ani muscles attach from the pubic bone at the front of the body to the back of the body where they connect to the tail bone (Coccyx). These muscles wrap directly around the openings to the uretha, the vagina and the anus and form a sling between the legs and are known as the sitting bones.

Pregnancy and child birth put pressure on these muscles and leakages of urine may be apparent when sneezing or coughing.

This is called stress incontinence and by regularly performing specific exercises these muscles can be toned to maintain their strength and regain more quickly after birth.

The pelvic floor muscles must be strong enough to support the bladder, uterus and rectum. These organs are under a great deal of stress from gravity constantly drawing them down during sitting or standing. If the pelvic floor muscles are weak, the internal organs are at risk of dropping causing prolapse.  

Main function of the pelvic floor muscles

  • Formation of an outlet for the pelvis to allow for urination, defecation and childbirth
  • Sustains continence of urine and faeces
  • Counteracts changes in abdominal pressure caused by coughing, sneezing, nose blowing, forced expiration and vomiting
  • Enables emptying of the bowels and bladder
  • Reflex activity enables rapid action when required
  • Improves sexual enjoyment during penetrative sexual intercourse

Kegel exercises if done regularly can be used to reduce incontinence and to help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles

Cramp can often effect the calf muscles and ankle circling and dorsi and plantar flextion can help if it circulation in origin.

The uterus restricts the movements of the diaphragm and may force the diaphragm up to 4cm higher than normal by the end of the pregnancy which can contribute to feelings of breathlessness.

If you experience rib or back pain, a useful exercise to relive this can be to reach your arms above your head clasping the hands and performing small side bends, holding only for a short period of time.

Supine hypotensive syndrome is where you experience a drop in blood pressure. This could be due to you laying supine (on your back) and where the weight of the uterus obstructs the vena cava, reducing blood flow back to the heart.

Postural hypotensive syndrome is where you can experience a drop in blood pressure after changing position or if you have been standing still for too long. Progesterone causes reduced tone in blood vessel walls and pooling of the blood in the lower extremities and is more likely to occur during pregnancy.


Surveys carried out over the last ten years agree that about a quarter of new mothers suffer from stress incontinence in the first three months after delivery. For around 15% this continues for up to one year. Approximately 4% of new mothers the bowel is also involved causing faecal incontinence also.

Pelvic floor exercise performed regularly immediately after child birth can improve muscular tone within a matter of weeks.

Oestrogen in conjunction with relaxin is thought to prepare the musculo-skeletal system for child-birth. Relaxin is produced early in pregnancy and peaks in the first trimester, falling by 20% thereafter until delivery.  It’s main role is to make the joints more elastic to accommodate a growing foetus and the passage of the baby through the birth canal. It can take up to 5-6 months post-partum for hormone levels to return to normal after birth

Two stone is the average weight of an expectant mother during pregnancy and after the baby has been born and the placenta has been removed, the weight gain for mothers  is around 27.5 pounds or 12.5 Kg. It took nine months for the weight to be gained and therefore it will take at least the same amount of time to get back to normal weight pre-birth.   You will need to have your six week check up and all clear from your GP before you can resume exercise after your birth.

Breasts produce colostrum for the first three days after birth which passes on the mother’s immunity. Milk then follows and feeding is encouraged immediately after delivery and the supply of milk will be stimulated by the baby

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