The Pregnancy Diaries: The Second Trimester
This is the second in a short series of blogs to provide advice and guidance for exercise and your wellbeing as you continue with your pregnancy journey into your second trimester. Your first trimester comes with an array of body changes, emotional changes and for many, the dreaded morning sickness! We are now here to help you through what we can call, ‘the grace period:’ your second trimester. We hope the information below is helpful as you continue with your pregnancy journey. Always remember, to listen to your body and your health professionals and if in any doubt, please do not hesitate to speak to your doctors.
Light at the end of the first trimester!
Goodbye morning sickness! Se la vie daytime napping! Hello food that isn’t beige in colour! OK, maybe a little too much excitement, but for several women, the second trimester is where we feel alive and kicking again. The pregnancy glow kicks in and with that, so does a new boost of energy. Hopefully by now, morning sickness and general feelings of grogginess will disappear and you will feel a million dollars in pregnancy terms! This also means getting back to feeling active and motivated to prepare your gorgeous body for the all-important workout ahead: childbirth! It helps to think of childbirth as a workout – you’re more likely to prepare your body for it if you keep this in mind.
As mentioned, the early effects of pregnancy will hopefully be on their way out and you should feel more energetic and ‘normal’ again. Bump may begin to show and you may have odd food cravings and aversions. Also, although we laugh about the term, ‘baby brain’, it is an actual thing – you may feel a little frazzled at times, along with a heightened sense of growing and having a baby; life is about to do a 180; hormones are all over the place and you laugh and cry at a drop of a hat; plus, no matter how much preparation you do, pregnancy and having a baby can make you feel a little out of control and vulnerable. This is all completely normal and you will be able to embrace and take on motherhood like no other! However, the focus on baby, pregnancy and life after birth most certainly takes over and we can often forget to care for our physical and mental health – exercise can really help with this. As much as you are training in a different way to care for your pregnant body, it can help maintain a level of confidence and control, which reminds you that you’re still a strong, independent and wonderful woman!
You will hopefully feel able to exercise regularly and more consistently in your second trimester. Don’t fret if you could not or did not exercise during your first trimester. You can start anytime so long as you have consulted with your doctor and feel able to. The same rule applies, listen to your body and keep your health professionals informed about how you feel at all times.
What can I do in my second trimester?
Similar guidelines apply here, especially if you have been exercising as per usual and in line with what feels right for you. There are a few more things to incorporate and a few things to avoid too.
Unless advised against it and you feel able to, you can still run and jog in your second trimester. Do what feels comfortable, however if you feel that running is placing adverse pressure on your pelvic floor (feels heavy, tight or uncomfortable), it may be best to stop or do a brisk walk instead. Unless running has been a consistent part of your routine pre pregnancy, it might be best to stick to brisk walking or the bike.
With an increase in energy, you may find you can increase the tempo of your workouts, but be mindful!
Pelvic floor exercises and Transversus-abdominal exercises (TVA) are very important. They will help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles pre and postnatally along with prepare you for a quicker recovery postnatally.
TVA exercises along with stretching and relaxing the abdominal muscles can help to minimise diastasis recti and abdominal separation.
If your instructor allows it and is trained with pre and post-natal clients, you should be able to attend regular exercise classes, which can really help motivate you, especially on days when you’re tired and just want to curl up with a tub of ice cream! (Nothing wrong with this by the way, but remember, it’s like a marathon – we want to be consistent with our food and fitness in pregnancy).
Are there any particular exercises I should aim to include in my workout?
- Kegels – keep going with these
- Lots of walking
- Squats, lunges and lower body resistance work
- Back strengthening exercises
- TRX exercises
- Incorporate routines using the exercise ball as bump gets bigger
- Stretching your belly (an exercise ball is great for this)
- Deep breathing to engage your TVA and pelvic floor muscles, whilst preparing your body for childbirth.
- Pre-natal Pilates can help you understand how to engage your deep core muscles and the classes are a lovely way for you to take care of -your body whilst meeting women in a similar position to you.
- Swimming (as long as the pool is the right temperature) is another great way to stay active during pregnancy.
Equally, keep doing what feels right. You may feel more breathless as your pregnancy continues; this is your body giving you feedback to slow down and take it easy. There is no race, a 15 minute or a 45 minute workout are both awesome for you and bump – just listen to your body and don’t overdo it.
Is there anything I should avoid?
Now that bump is growing and your body is changing to support the development of your baby, there are a few physical activities you should avoid:
Avoid lying on your back or limit time spent lying on your back (especially if advised by a health professional).
Avoid over stretching. There is an increase in the hormone, relaxin, to help create room for your baby to grow as your abdominal muscles stretch. This can make you quite flexible. For some, it makes no difference, however if you haven’t always been the most flexible or consistent with stretching, be careful when stretching to avoid injury.
Avoid traditional abdominal exercises such as crunches, Russian twists or anything that involves the need to flex and crunch the tummy muscles. If you notice your tummy coning (popping out a little), stop.
Avoid contact sports, sudden jerking or jarring, hot yoga, balance work (centre of gravity and balance most certainly shifts as bump grows!) and anything that doesn’t feel comfortable for you and bump.
Avoid exercises or routines that require you to go from mat to standing in quick succession. You may feel light headed and dizzy, which isn’t good for you or baby.
Avoid overload (heavy weights) during pregnancy (controversial, but discussed in more detail below).
Avoid fasted exercises – in fact, keep your energy levels up at all times during pregnancy.
Avoid traditional HIIT workouts.
This list is not intended to scare or deter you from exercising; rather exercise during pregnancy just requires a little more care and thought. You can of course continue with many things so long as they feel right for you, however there are some exercises that due to their methodology are not ideal to perform during pregnancy when we consider that your body will need to heal and repair post-partum too.
So, with bump, I’m not allowed to lift weights or get a proper sweat on…?!
Not quite. In terms of, ‘getting a sweat on’, many of us are used to sweat dripping everywhere, and a workout can feel wrong unless we leave the gym with our hair sticking to your face! Pregnant or not, sweating is not necessarily an indication of how hard you have worked; rather it’s more to do with your genetic makeup. Let’s park the sweat theory to one side for now.
When pregnant, especially during your second and third trimester, your body composition is changing so much – sometimes more than your medical professionals and trainers are able to foresee. Therefore, you need to be extremely mindful about how you treat your body. For example, running may feel great to begin with, but before you know it, you may find yourself suffering from back ache or foot ache. Similarly, cycling or spinning (a very popular choice) may seem like a great alternative and for several women it is. However, it may cause symphysis pubic dysfunction (SPD), also known as pelvic girdle pain. SPD feels like muscle ache and pain at the front and back of your pelvis, lower back and sometimes an ache within the Kegel muscles too. For some women this pain is bearable, but others have been known to need bed rest or assistance moving around. SPD is not only caused by exercise, but can be caused by lifting heavy loads such as your washing or every day housework like vacuuming, moving bits and pieces of furniture around or simply standing or sitting in a particular position for a prolonged period of time. The pain can disappear within days, or it can remain throughout the duration of your pregnancy. Therefore, as heavy loads and physical exertion is a cause of it, it’s best to stay away from the heavy deadlifts, barbell squats and overhead press.
There are, several women (some, within the fitness industry) who might say, if it feels fine continue, or that there is no sufficient evidence to suggest heavy lifting and HIIT are a problem. For me, it’s a matter of merging knowledge with common sense. We know we’re growing a human, we know our bodies are changing, we know there is an increase in relaxin and our centre of gravity and balance have shifted. Therefore, if you’re used to lifting 60kg, reduce it to a load where you can breathe and talk comfortably. Similarly, if you’ve always lifted 5-6kg comfortably when lunging and squatting, you may find this is fine during pregnancy too. You know your own strength, but remember your strength is not what it was prenatally. It may increase or return to normal post-partum, but for now be mindful.
We’re excited to support your pre and postnatal journey and hopefully the information in The Pregnancy Diaries series has given you the advice and guidance you need to adapt and follow the Tone and Sculpt workouts in the app. Any questions please let us know. Equally, if you have any other tips for women in their Second trimester trying to workout, please send those in too!