Why all of a sudden do you feel like it is 3 x harder to walk up a hill or a stairwell, or why has your iron levels dropped?
Blood volume increases significantly within the first few weeks of gestation and increases progressively throughout the pregnancy. The total blood volume increase varies from 20% to 100% above pre-pregnancy levels, usually close to 45% of average woman.
"A healthy woman bearing a normal sized foetus, with an average birth weight of about 3.3 kg, will increase her plasma volume by an average of about 1250 ml, a little under 50% of the average non-pregnant volume for white European women of about 2600 ml. There is little increase during the first trimester, followed by a progressive rise to a maximum at about 34-36 weeks, after which little or no further increase occurs." (National Library of Medicine) A non-pregnant woman has about 100ml of blood per minute flowing through the uterine artery, but in early pregnancy this increases to about 120 ml per minute. Once a woman is close to her due date, the blood flow has increased to about 350 ml per minute.
Interestingly enough the research shows that physically active women possess significantly greater vascular volumes than their sedentary counterparts.
WHY DO WE GET AN INCREASE
Pregnancy requires dramatic changes in blood flow, the most obvious being that which occurs in the uterus and the development of the placenta to make a baby grow.
WHAT OTHER THINGS HAPPEN AS A RESULT OF THIS INCREASE?
- Blood flow to the skin increases, making a newly pregnant woman feel warmer and perhaps sweat more, particularly from her hands and feet.
The increase boosts the body metabolism by about 20%, creating more body heat and making pregnant women less likely to feel the cold the body temperature will often rise to about 37.8 C degrees. (Normally 37)
So you are off to the Hospital to deliver you baby… what are the essential items to pack into the bag?
Packing your pregnancy bag is a job you will either do too early or too late. It's never too early to gather together all the essentials you'll need during labour and birth, and for after your baby is born. Even if you're not planning to have your baby in a hospital or birth centre, you may need to go in unexpectedly, so try to have a bag packed by the time you're about 36 weeks pregnant.
Create a checklist and get ticking :)
What Mum needs for her hospital pregnancy bag:
- Maternity bras
- Nighties including an old one or a large t-shirt to wear in labour. It will probably get a bit messy, so don't buy anything special or tight to wear in hospital.
- Dressing gown. This will be useful if you end up pacing hospital corridors in early labour. You'll probably also want one on the postnatal ward. Hospitals can be very warm, so a lightweight one may be better. A dark colour or busy pattern will help hide any stains.
- Casual day clothes: include a pair of leggings that have supportive belly band with non intrusive seams. It helps with the repair of this area.
- Slippers/shoes: Backless slippers that are easy to get on and off. Thongs work well, too.
- Breast pads
- Maternity pads plus lots and lots of undies
- Heat packs. Many hospitals have a limited number of heat packs but are happy for you to bring your own. Check first, though, that your hospital allows microwaved heat packs (some have banned them), and has a microwave available so you can heat the packs.
- Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Makeup, Hairbrush, Deodorant, Shampoo, Conditioner plus Hairbands, clips or a headband. If you have long hair, you may want it tied up or clipped back. And if your hair is shorter, you can keep it off your face with a soft headband especially during labour.
- Lip balm: your lips can dry out quickly on a warm labour ward and from the air conditioner on the ward.
- Any medications you have been taking (please bring the medication to the hospital to show your admitting doctor and arrange for this medication to be returned home)
- Your Medicare card, details of your health insurance (if you have private insurance) and any hospital paperwork you need. Your birth plan (if you have one) and antenatal card, if you were given one.
- Storage containers for glasses, contact lenses, hearing aids, or dentures. Note that your glasses may fog up when you're in the throes of labour, and you won’t be able to wear contacts if you're having a caesarean.
- Things to help you relax or pass the time, such as books, magazines, games, knitting or a tablet. You may also want to download some fun and distracting apps on your phone to keep you occupied during early labour.
- Music device, Phone and charger
- Snacks and drinks for during and after the birth. Most women are able to eat and drink during labour and those early few days of breastfeeding when you can eat anything in sight. The hospital will have food and drink available, but you may prefer to pack a few things that you know you like. Great ideas are: Fruit, unsalted nuts, chips, muesli bars, honey sandwiches or and popcorn are all good options.
Some optional extras depending on the type of birth and/or what you have put into your birthing plan:
- Massage oil or lotion if you'd like to be massaged during labour. You may also like to borrow or invest in a massage roller or similar aid, so your birth partner can massage you for longer.
- Birth ball. This can help you find different positions of labour, and may also help you manage the pain of contractions. Check whether the hospital has the right size for you. If not, take your own. Remember to bring a pump so your birth partner can inflate it for you.
- Oil burner, if you'd like to use aromatherapy oils. Check with your hospital because most have won't allow open flames, but you may be able to use an electric burner.
What baby needs:
- Baby clothes and a blanket to take your baby home in
- Newborn nappies and extra wipes (especially if you like a certain variety)
- Dummy or pacifier if you choose to use one
- Formula, bottles, teats and sterilising equipment, if you plan to formula feed
- Olive, apricot, almond oil for coating baby's bottom before the first nappy goes to make cleaning easier
Comfort and support are the most important features when it comes to maternity clothing and leggings are no different. All of our pregnancy leggings have been specially designed to allow for the growth of the bump and belly while providing absolute support and comfort. Featuring a high waistband that can be worn during pregnancy, or folded down for extra support postpartum
Many woman experience different disorders while they are pregnant, but some of the symptoms are the same such as pelvic pain, swelling, stiff hips and the added strain on the lower back. Therefore finding the right maternity leggings to help relieve and minimise these types of symptoms is essential for comfort during and after pregnancy. Our specially designed maternity leggings have been constructed to support you in all the right places. By keeping the weight off your pelvis and reducing the pressure on your muscles and ligaments around the bottom half of your body that is growing so much!
So what do they do?
- Light compression to the legs, hips and if they are over the bump; the belly and lower back as well.
- Support under the belly to take some weight off your hips and pelvis by providing a layer of support, they can help to lift up and alleviate the pressure on the pelvis.
- Help to assist in keeping your weight in the right spots to put your body back into natural alignment.
You can wear them under the bump in early pregnancy, then over the bump later in pregnancy. MUMMACTIV pregnancy and postpartum leggings can be worn under or over because:
- Over-the-bump leggings have a light compression panel above the waistline that stretches and pulls up over the bump.
- Under-the-bump leggings have a vee at the front of the waistline so the bump can sit in the middle.
With over the bump leggings when the compression panel is folded over (doubling the layer) and you wear it under the belly they give you even more bump support so the weight of your organs and bump isn't sitting on top of your hips as much.
They are essentially a belly band attached to pants. Many woman buy a belly band during pregnancy or for postpartum. Whereas, maternity leggings already have the belly band attached as a panel above the waist. Because the band is longit can be folded over during pregnancy to really provide support like a belly band, then after-baby, fold it down to help push your tummy in and support it.
Had or having a C-section?
When maternity leggings are for you...The compression panel scoops low at the front to provide the ultimate in comfort for any c-section scars. After a c section you don’t want to wear any clothing with seams that sit on the scar simply because they will irritate you. We've had customers regularly commenting that our leggings are the only pants they could wear post-baby after a c-section because of the way the seam cuts down and doesn't aggravate or irritate the scar.
To train or not to train....
Generally if you have been doing CrossFit of F45 for a period of time prior to pregnancy you are ok to continue and scale/modify the activities. This is of course if you have no medical problems and have been generally cleared to from your doctor.
The BOXLIFE magazine sums up some great myths around this topic.
MYTH OR FACT? “Women should scale their workouts while they are pregnant.”
The most important thing for the woman to remember is to listen to her body. Each day will be different and certain movements may begin to feel awkward or uncomfortable. The competitive nature of CrossFit can cause women to feel frustrated when their bodies are telling them to slow down. Remember: It’s only for nine months!
What modifications should be used no matter what?
Whether you’re pregnant or not, form is king. Form should never be compromised when performing a lift or during a workout. As a woman’s belly grows, it will be impossible to maintain an optimal bar path. This means there will come a time where a switch to kettlebells or dumbbells is called for. Also, pregnant women release a hormone called Relaxin which causes ligaments to be looser and can affect balance. Therefore, movements such as box jumps should be avoided after the first trimester. Double-unders, for example, should be left to each individual and how she feels on the given day.
MYTH OR FACT? “Intense workouts will harm the baby.”
Intensity is a relative term. Exercise is very beneficial to your baby. Mom and baby share everything, including hormones. If mom releases endorphins while exercising, baby will reap the benefit as well. Studies also show that moms who exercise during pregnancy have larger placentas which mean more oxygen exchange for the baby.
MYTH OR FACT? “I need to monitor my heart rate when working out during my pregnancy.”
This is also an outdated fact. It’s more important to listen to your body and take breaks as needed. Over the course of a pregnancy, a woman’s blood volume increases by as much as 50%! This is why women feel short of breath during workouts a lot sooner than they are accustomed. Every minute on the minute (EMOM) workouts are great for pregnant CrossFitters as it gives them built-in rest.
MYTH OR FACT? “My diet needs to change tremendously.”
That depends on what you were eating before you were pregnant. A Paleo or Primal diet is ideal for pregnancy as it ensures that moms are getting adequate protein, minerals and good fats. The best book I’ve read on this subject is “Beautiful Babies” by Kristen Michaelis.
MYTH OR FACT? “I just found out I’m pregnant and want to start CrossFit to start living a more active lifestyle. Is it safe for me?”
Newly pregnant women have asked me this very question. I think the functional movements we do in CrossFit are definitely beneficial for pregnant women. However, if you’ve never done it before, I recommend you find a personal trainer or coach who truly knows about the pregnant body. Have them work with you one-on-one. I design programs for women with little to no CrossFit experience as well as those with many years under their belt. Beginners can benefit greatly from some of the basic movements, but I would not recommend that a newbie jump into a CrossFit class newly pregnant!
MYTH OR FACT? “Miscarriages are more likely if you CrossFit.”
It’s hard to know what exactly causes a miscarriage. It’s also easy for women to blame themselves for something they did, something they ate, etc., when sometimes nature just has other plans for us. I know many newly pregnant moms worry about this, but I would say, again, take it easy for the first trimester. You may feel tired and nauseous or you may feel awesome. Each day is different. Use this time to move your body and release endorphins, even if it’s by walking or doing something lighter until you feel more confident jumping back into a workout.
Just tell us…Is it safe to CrossFit while pregnant?
As with any exercise, as long as you’ve been doing it for at least six months prior to pregnancy, you should be fine. The functional movements we do in CrossFit are extremely beneficial for helping women get through labor. Squatting is one of the best exercises for the pelvic floor and tends to help CrossFitting mamas have shorter pushing times.
I tend to be conservative when it comes to some of the more “controversial” topics regarding pregnancy. For example, I am adamantly opposed to going upside down while pregnant. It’s one of those instances where you will probably be OK, but what if you aren’t? Why risk it for a handstand push-up? I think it’s important to take a step back and put it all into perspective. Women must also remember not to compare themselves to anyone else. Just because your friend is doing muscle ups while pregnant doesn’t mean it will feel OK for you. Listening to your body each and every day is key.”
The BARBELLPHYSIO.com recommends not doing the following exercises:
- Bench press
Despite the common misconception otherwise, resistance training is actually very beneficial for pregnant women. But one situation you should avoid is lying flat on your back for too long, especially as you advance into your second trimester and the weight of the uterus puts pressure on the major blood vessels running alongside your spine. Replace the bench press with an incline dumbbell press to avoid this issue.
- Sit ups
Although exercise during pregnancy is definitely good for you, the muscles of the abdomen are being put under considerable strain as the baby forces them to stretch and thin. Side planks and Pallof presses are good alternatives to sit ups with lower risk.
- Push ups and burpees
Although your body is still capable of doing these in muscular terms, the simple mechanics of the situation may well defeat you as your rapidly growing belly starts to press the floor. Luckily, all you need to do is raise the upper part of your body, either on a bench or bars, to give yourself enough space to enjoy these CrossFit basics.
- Snatch and clean
Again, this becomes difficult due to the sheer mechanics of your protruding abdomen as pregnancy progresses. Perform the power version instead and then move to squatting under control.
- Pushing your personal best
OK, so this isn’t a specific exercise, but it’s pretty much the bread and butter of CrossFit, so it’s worth addressing. Although the old ‘don’t let your heart rate rise above 140 bpm’ myth has almost completely died out, there’s a consensus that putting your body under too much stress while exercising may be uncomfortable for your growing baby as his oxygen levels drop.
The consensus generally is that sun exposure, in moderation, is good if you need an adequate dose of Vitamin D.
“Vitamin D is a vitamin we produce in our skin that effects the amount of calcium the body absorbs and is important of bone growth and development.”
The primary status of vitamin D for the child during pregnancy and during breast feeding, is the mother’s vitamin D status.
Therefore, sun exposure becomes essential for pregnant women too as it aids in providing bone creation of the fetus. Moreover, a strong immunity for you and the baby also gets assured. Though too much sun due to higher hormonal levels makes your skin more sensitive than ever.
Due to this potential risks of Sun exposure during pregnancy are:
Folic acid absorption
The next question that gets asked a lot is:
IS IT SAFE TO WEAR SUNSCREEN?
Yes it is but be mindful of the ingredients.
“Sunscreens are categorized into two types, i.e. physical blockers and chemical blockers. Physical blockers are safe to use as they are a mixture of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide that together aid in reflecting back the harmful UV rays.
On the other hand, chemical blockers are not at all recommended for pregnant women. This is because these blockers contain ingredients that absorb the UV rays rather than reflecting them. And one of such ingredients is oxybenzone that is commonly found in chemical blockers. Oxybenzone has been known to penetrate through the skin and holds the potential to cause allergies, hormonal disturbances, and low birth weight especially in newly born baby girls.”
Push-ups are the best way to work that upper body while you're pregnant. Push ups are a great way to build strength so you are better equipped to hold and lift your little one.
Muscle Groups Trained & Benefits:
The push-up strengthens the muscles of the upper body including:
- deltoids (shoulders)
- upper back
- triceps (back of arms)
- Upper body strength may be utilized during labor and delivery for support and stability in some squatting positions.
- Upper body strength will most certainly be utilized postpartum as you care for baby!
- Upper body strength helps to maintain alignment and core stability.
- In combination with core activation and diaphragmatic breathing, TVA (transverse abdominis) and core are strengthened.
Some ask is it safe to do push ups during pregnancy or early postpartum?
Anytime your abdominal wall is “loaded” i.e. putting extra pressure on the tissues by doing pushups or planks, you can worsen your diastasis recti. We still do pushups, but in a functional way so as not to load the abs. Below is a general guide as to each trimester and then postpartum we suggest working backwards once you have the all clear.
First Trimester Push-Ups
- Start in a modified push-up position with hands and knees on the ground.
- Be sure your hands are directly under the shoulders as you lower down towards the ground.
- Push back and return to starting position and repeat.
Second Trimester Push-Ups
- Start in push-up plank position.
- Reach the right hand sideways during the push-up.
- Alternate sides bringing one hand to the center between reps
Third Trimester Push-Ups
- Stand facing a wall and extend your arms onto the wall just wider than shoulder width apart.
- Bend your elbows until your nose almost touches the wall.
- Reverse the movement and push your body back to the starting position. Continue for 15 reps.
*exercise in pregnancy should be checked with a qualified physician
“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).”
– James Baraz
"When we stay in the present, we make wiser choices and take things less personally."
- Saki Santorelli
“There could not be a better time to learn mindfulness than during pregnancy and early motherhood. For one thing, this is a time when most people have a strong motivation to become the best person they can be in a relatively short period of time. When you realize the full enormity of the responsibility you have taken on by becoming a mom, the primary source of care for another whole human being, not to mention one that you love more than you thought you could ever love, there is a really high level of motivation to try your best to get yourself into the best mental and emotional shape possible. I've talked to so many pregnant women who have for the first time in their lives encountered within themselves a deep and very sweet drive to learn new ways of being-quick! They don't want to pass on negative patterns to their child, and want to do everything possible to transmit a healthy foundation for the rest of their child's life.
Also, this is a great time to learn mindfulness because you are already open and somewhat vulnerable. The downside of this can be feeling off-balance or a little exposed, needing more help from others than usual and being at the mercy of your body's functions and your baby's needs. The upside is that this state of being provides a sort of malleability-some of your defenses are down, you may be feeling more sensitive than usual, and this is a great time to learn new skills! It makes you open-minded in a way that perhaps you are not when you've got everything under control. Since mindfulness has a lot to do with being in touch with the sensations in your body, and being aware, new moms are in a prime state to learn it! In fact, pregnancy and early motherhood, nursing and sleep disturbance, weight gain and weight loss-these all in some way force you to be in your body. For those of us who live most of our lives above our necks, this can actually be a great blessing.
Let me tell you a bit more about how mindfulness transformed my experience of motherhood!
Several years ago, as I struggled with postpartum depression and anxiety, I began to read about mindfulness.
Of course! I thought, I just need to be more mindful! Thank goodness I read this book!
And then I tried to be mindful.
Without any of the meditating….
I didn’t want to waste my precious time sitting on a cushion doing nothing! I mean, I had all this parenting I had to do!
But I realized that mindfulness didn’t work if I just read about it and liked the idea of it.
Once I started meditating...
... my life started to change.
I discovered a peace and stillness at the core of my busy life.
I smiled more. I laughed more.
I found a new way of being and doing and mothering.
I realized I could respond much more skillfully to my children ~ even when they were driving me crazy!
I learned to be kind and compassionate to myself.
I knew that mindfulness had transformed me as a mother.
I knew I should start teaching this to others.” By Cassandra Vieten
Over the coming weeks we will share ways to practise mindfulness no matter what stage of motherhood you are at. (Pregnant, Breastfeeding, Postpartum, menopausal- we all deserve a bit of time out...) These practises should be short and not impact upon your day and be an extra chore to do...
DR or better known as Diastasis Recti is quite common amongst Pregnant/Postpartum Mums and without the knowledge or bing assessed many don’t even know they have it. Some woman wonder why years after childbirth they still have the pouch even though they have done what they can through eating right and exercise.
Taryn Watson from FITRIGHT wrote a great blog last year on it. Recently we also attended an information session from @fit_triplet_mum
Here is some of Taryn‘s post:
Abdominal Muscle Separation During and After Pregnancy
It will never cease to amaze that a little human being can grow to full development for nine months in a woman’s belly. One of the inevitable consequences of this, however, is that there has to be a lot of shifting and stretching of the surrounding organs and tissues to allow this to happen!
The “six pack” muscle, or Rectus Abdominis muscle, is actually two muscle bellies with a line of connective tissue down the middle. From about 18 weeks of pregnancy, when the baby starts taking up more space above the pelvis, the midline tissue has to start stretching, and the six pack muscles move apart from each other.
This separation is called ‘Diastasis Recti’, or DR, and is helped by the fact that pregnant women have a hormone in their body called Relaxin, which allows connective tissue to be stretchier.
MYTH TO BUST – The abdominal muscles do not ‘tear’ or ‘split’, but the connective tissue between them does need to stretch and this is a very normal consequence of pregnancy.
In pregnancy, after the muscles have begun to stretch, it is highly recommended to minimize use of the six pack muscle. This means after approximately 16-20 weeks of pregnancy, avoid anything that causes ‘doming’ or triangling of the abdominal wall during exercise or daily activities. This may include:
- Russian Twists
- Pull ups/chin ups/Muscle ups
- Getting up from the bed/bath/couch
Daily movements can usually be modified to avoid doming, by rolling completely onto your side to get up from a reclined position.
Investing in a pair of Pregnancy leggings is paramount to your comfort as you work on nurturing the growing bundle of joy inside. As the months go past you will slowly get more uncomfortable through your abdominal and lower back region. You need a pair of maternity leggings to support you for the whole 9 months.
A pregnant body is forever changing, so your usual gear isn’t going to go the distance. When your top no longer fits properly, you’re not really likely to head out for a nice walk with your belly exposed, right? The pregnancy leggings that we have designed offer a high-support waistband that offers panelling that helps spread the weight of your baby bump evenly over your lower body, which will help improve your posture, take pressure off the lower back and encourage more comfortable exercise. The waistband is designed to sit underneath the growing bump so that the seam rests underneath not providing constriction or irritation.
Some woman experience the phenomenon of irritable uterus (also called “uterine irritability”) in pregnancy and is described as “non-labor inducing contractions that occur frequently, sometimes painfully, sometimes painlessly, without any real consistency or pattern.” Having a tight regular legging band that cuts through the abdomen area can cause undue pressure in this area. The leggings that we have designed allow growth and expansion due to a high quality fabric and no irritating seams through the pregnant bump region. The quality of fabric does mean that these leggings offer all of the support in the right areas and they do not stretch out of shape.
So there is no question as to why to buy a pair of maternity leggings comparative to wearing your normal high waisted regular ones…
How Interval Training Can Increase Exercise Enjoyment During Pregnancy
As research continues to support regular exercise in low risk, healthy pregnancies, the number of pregnant women engaging in moderate intensity exercise remains below recommended levels for health benefits.
Current guidelines recommend that healthy pregnant and postpartum women, perform at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., equivalent to brisk walking) . However, statistics show more than 50 percent of pregnant women do not achieve this due to multiple barriers to exercise such as lack of time, child care issues, as well as life and work commitments [2-4].
With this problem in mind, I teamed up with fellow researchers at The University of Western Australia’s School of Human Science to conduct a small pilot study in an attempt to find out whether continuous or interval typed aerobic training provided greater exercise enjoyment in pregnant women.
Why Exercise Enjoyment?
You might be wondering why we chose to look at enjoyment. Research suggests that exercise enjoyment is a major predictor of attendance and adherence to exercise , and we all know the importance of encouraging consistency in exercise, whether during pregnancy or not.
Since interval training is known to provide superior health benefits, and enhance exercise enjoyment and adherence compared with moderate intensity continuous exercise in a non-pregnant population [6-9], we were intrigued to find out if interval exercise had a similar effect in the pregnant population. This was of importance: if interval training was not well tolerated and enjoyed by pregnant women, it would be pointless to prescribe interval training to pregnant women and put them off exercise totally.
Stationary cycling was chosen as the mode of exercise as it is a recommended for pregnant women without obstetric complications . This mode of exercise facilitates a higher self-paced intensity as it supports the increasing body mass of pregnant women. This allowed women to expend more energy in the same amount of time compared to walking and thus a greater reduction in postprandial (post-meal) glucose concentration, which may have an implication to women with gestational diabetes .
Furthermore, a program of regular home-based stationary cycling also appears to have favorable effects on maternal fitness and glucose tolerance in previously inactive obese pregnant women . Cycling on the stationary bike also encouraged adherence to the cycling training program as it can be performed indoors and not subjected to weather. Comparing the cost of exercise equipment, a stationary bike is also more affordable than most treadmills.
In our study published in BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth , twelve healthy pregnant women in their third trimesters visited the laboratory on two occasions within a two-week period and were scheduled at least two days apart to minimize any effects from the previous session. In a counterbalanced order, these women performed either:
- 30 minutes of continuous cycling exercise at an intensity of 65 percent of their age-predicted maximum heart rate, or
- An equivalent period of interval cycling consisting of continuous cycling at the same power output as continuous cycling, with the addition of six 15-second self-paced higher intensity efforts throughout, performed at regular intervals.
We measured the relevant physiological parameters (i.e., power output, oxygen consumption, heart rate and rate of perceived exertion) as well as assessed exercise enjoyment using the Physical Activity Enjoyment Scale (PACES) immediately following each trial . The women were also ask to provided written responses to the questions such as:
- Did you prefer the continuous cycling session or the interval cycling session? Why?
- If you had to perform a cycling program for three months during pregnancy, would you choose continuous cycling or interval cycling? Why?
Mean cycling power output, heart rate, oxygen consumption and energy expenditure were higher during interval cycling compared with continuous cycling, but there was no difference in mean rate of perceived exertion between the two. This is surprising and exciting at the same time because:
- The mere addition of six 15-second (90 seconds in total) higher-intensity intervals to continuous moderate intensity exercise had effectively increased energy expenditure by 28 percent. In other words, women in the study worked hard during the interval cycling but found the overall rate of perceived exertion to be similar to continuous cycling.
- This potentially means that there is a possibility of creating exercise programs for pregnant women that maximises energy expenditure for a given time without making them feel like they are exerting more.
- Enjoyment of exercise was also higher with interval cycling compared to continuous cycling even though they expended more energy during interval cycling.
From the written responses provided by the participants, all women preferred the interval cycling over continuous cycling, citing it was “interesting,” “challenging,” provided a “better workout” and made time “go faster” because the exercise was “broken up” as the reasons of preference. One woman had “expected to prefer the continuous cycling” but found that interval cycling gave her a “sense of accomplishment and better understanding of her exercise capacity.”
When asked which type of exercise women would prefer if it was a three-month, thrice weekly cycling program, the majority preferred an interval cycling or mixture of both training types. A mixture of continuous and interval cycling may be ideal given that no two days are the same for a pregnant woman in terms of the physically symptoms she experiences daily.
This was a very promising finding for us, to see that interval cycling not only was allowing pregnant women in the third trimester to expend more energy without compromising and instead elevating enjoyment of exercise in the twelve participating women.
Important Note When Interpreting Research Findings
When we interpret research findings, it is imperative to be aware of each research studies’ limitations. Of note, the findings in this featured study are specific to recreationally active women, and do not make it a blanket clinical recommendation for all pregnant women. While the outcome of this study prompts for more research more larger group of pregnant women, it is definitely not the end of this story.
But the implications of this small study do suggest the potential of using interval exercise, with caution, to promote exercise enjoyment in a group of women who may not have time or enjoy exercise.
When we are working with unconditioned and previously sedentary pregnant women, it might not be ideal to just put them on a program of continuous vigorous intensity as this level of exercise intensity would require more regular prenatal monitoring for maternal and fetal well-being . However, the use of interval bouts of self-paced effort could be a way to incorporate some vigorous intensity into their exercise program as it allows for a higher intensity training stimulus with partial recovery between efforts, keeping the overall intensity of an exercise session within safe limits.
The addition of brief higher intensity intervals to continuous exercise at moderate intensity can also be an opportunity to safely optimize health and fitness benefits for pregnant women by increasing the energy expenditure of an exercise session, at the same time as maximising enjoyment.
Remember that it is highly advisable to work closely with your pregnant client’s obstetrician if you decided to utilize some interval cycling in her training and the extent of higher intensity should always be determined by the pregnant women and not the trainer.
As exercise professionals who work with pregnant women, the most important lesson to teach other clients is how to listen to their bodies and take their training to where their bodies and pregnancies want to go. Our physiology is very clever at sending us messages to reduce intensity or stop exercise during pregnancy. We just need educate our clients on how to pick up those messages.
- Physical activity and exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Committee Opinion No. 650. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstet Gynecol 2015;126:e135–42
- de Jersey, S. J., Nicholson, J. M., Callaway, L. K., & Daniels, L. A. (2013). An observational study of nutrition and physical activity behaviours, knowledge, and advice in pregnancy. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 13(1), 115.
- Evenson, K. R., & Wen, F. (2010). National trends in self-reported physical activity and sedentary behaviors among pregnant women: NHANES 1999–2006. Preventive Medicine, 50(3), 123-128.
- Evenson, K. R., Moos, M. K., Carrier, K., & Siega-Riz, A. M. (2009). Perceived barriers to physical activity among pregnant women. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 13(3), 364-375.
- Ryan, R., Frederick, C., Lepes, D., Rubio, N., & Sheldon, K. (1997). Intrinsic motivation and exercise adherence. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 28(4), 335-354.
- Helgerud, J., Hoydal, K., Wang, E., Karlsen, T., Berg, P., Bjerkaas, M., . . . Bach, R. (2007). Aerobic high-intensity intervals improve VO2max more than moderate training. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 39(4), 665.
- Little, J. P., Gillen, J. B., Percival, M. E., Safdar, A., Tarnopolsky, M. A., Punthakee, Z., . . . Gibala, M. J. (2011). Low-volume high-intensity interval training reduces hyperglycemia and increases muscle mitochondrial capacity in patients with type 2 diabetes. Journal of Applied Physiology, 111(6), 1554-1560.
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