Pregnancy – 4 Prenatal Exercises and Getting Your Body Ready
by Courtney Virden
Pre-conception care can have a dramatic impact on not only your pregnancy but also delivery and recovery. Prenatal exercises play a vital role in pre-conception care. I gained over 70 pounds with my first pregnancy and over 60 with my second. If I knew then what I do now (the best pregnancy exercises), my journey could have been a whole lot easier. During pregnancy a women’s center of gravity changes, her pelvic organs shift, her heart rate is higher, and her pelvic floor muscles deal with increasing pressure throughout the pregnancy. Whether you are planning on becoming pregnant, are currently pregnant, want to do the postpartum care you never did, or just want to improve your health, these tips and tools can help. Pregnancy ball exercises and pregnancy pelvic floor exercises will quickly become your go-to for feeling good while pregnant.
Importance of Anti-Inflammatory Foods
It starts with what goes into our bodies. Following an anti-inflammatory diet with whole foods as much as possible is a smart move for everyone. Including plenty of them in your diet during pre-conception and pregnancy is important. Many colorful fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, wild-caught fish, and organic meats and proteins all help give your body the nutrients it needs. Our bodies need these nutrients to function well and help fight internal inflammation. Limit processed foods, which, in excess, lead to chronic inflammation and long-term health conditions. Weight loss is often a natural result of a detox diet, too. For many, following a Mediterranean diet, filled with anti-inflammatory foods and rich in omega-3 fatty acids, works well to reduce inflammation.
In addition to a healthy diet, many of us can benefit from a detox. A detox is to rid our bodies of things such as heavy metals and toxic overload from our environment. Pre-conception detoxes can be helpful for years to come and are something you and your partner can do together. There are many great detoxes you can do, and I recommend consulting with an expert to determine which one might be appropriate for you. Lymphatic drainage massages can also help your body remove toxins.
One main source of toxins is endocrine disruptors, such as bisphenol-A and phthalates. Found almost everywhere-including beauty products, plastics, and receipts- endocrine disruptors have even entered our food system. Limiting exposure to them is always a good idea, as some can affect fetal development. In addition, they have been shown to have a negative lifetime impact linked to cancer, birth defects, and other developmental disorders. I spent years researching products and shopping at so many stores for them. With increasing awareness, finding cleaner, non-toxic products has become much easier than in the past.
Physical Activity and Pelvic Floor Exercises
Now, let’s talk about our bodies and how the way we move impacts the way we feel and look. Many women already have a flat booty, and a flat mom butt is a real thing after pregnancy for so many, impacting our pelvic floor and vice versa. Our foot and ankle joints often get more laxity and our gait changes. So, doing exercises and taking care of your feet is essential before and during pregnancy. As early as 12 weeks, the fetus’s weight begins placing more pressure on the pelvic floor. This can lead to pelvic floor issues, like urinary incontinence, during and after pregnancy. I do not recommend Kegels for most women, but instead, strengthening your pelvic floor. Doing both concentric and concentric movements to help your pelvic floor during pregnancy is vital. Maintaining or beginning an exercise routine, even light workouts and 30 minutes of walking, during pregnancy makes a tremendous difference in energy. So, even if you are tired, aim for some quick birthing ball exercises.
Pelvic floor exercises in pregnancy give it strength to handle the extra weight. They also help you with extra strength and flexibility for delivery. Pelvic floor training can also help improve recovery after birth and can help women with issues reduce and even eliminate dysfunction. A side benefit is better sex and orgasms. Also, our posture and hip alignment change throughout pregnancy, and postpartum breastfeeding and even holding your baby can lead to kyphosis (a type of spine curvature). Exercises to promote good posture and efficient movement are key before, during, and after. These help your body function and feel its best. Some enjoy prenatal yoga, strength training, and many are now discovering that pregnant women and non-pregnant women alike benefit from pelvic floor training.
Pregnancy Pelvic Floor Exercises
With so many uncertainties in life, having the tools and information to help yourself puts you in a good situation. To prepare for pregnancy, a pregnancy workout and even postpartum help you control the things you can. As a mom, I understand how important it is to make yourself a priority and take care of yourself. When you do that, it allows you to fully take care of someone else and be your best self. Activity during pregnancy makes a tremendous difference in how a woman feels.
Our online pelvic floor programs with stability ball exercises are what I recommend to all pregnant women. Getting a strong pelvic floor but with elasticity and responsiveness helps with delivery and recovery as well as throughout your pregnancy. These programs are for all women throughout their lives and support a healthy body and pelvic floor. In addition to the pelvic circles in the pelvic floor exercise video below, you can do pelvic tilts. Do this by tilting your pubic bone towards your spine and then releasing it while sitting on a birthing ball. You can also do side-to-side ones by going from sits bone to sits bone, initiating with the pelvic floor muscles.
The Moves – Pregnancy Pelvic Floor Exercises
- Ball Lunge
- Ball Roll Over
- Hip Circles (sitting on the ball)
- Bent Elbow Pullovers
What size exercise ball for pregnancy? Usually a 65 cm to 75 cm is ideal.
Move 1: Ball Lunge
How to: First, stand tall, facing away from the stability ball. Then, lift the left leg, place the foot on the top front of the ball, and keep your torso and foot flat on the floor, facing straight ahead. You will keep your torso tall and lifted and your neck relaxed throughout the exercise.
Then you will slowly move your torso backward. As you do this, your back leg will reach backward, and the front knee will bend to allow your torso to move back. Do not lean forward or lunge straight down and keep your tailbone dropped as you move throughout this exercise. It is not a traditional lunge. Then, as your torso moves back, the foot on the ball naturally moves backward, and more of your weight shifts onto the back leg. Keep your front knee above your ankle.
Then, to return to the starting position, press the foot into the ball, and most of the exercise is using your upper body to lift your body back to the starting position. Finally, repeat several times, switch sides, and repeat on the other side. The ball lunge is one of my favorite hip flexor exercises because it stretches and strengthens your hips and other muscle groups.
Note: For additional stability, use a wall and roll the ball along it. You can also hold onto a stable object with one or two hands.
Move 2: Ball Roll-Over
How to: First, get into a deep squat with the stability ball in front of you. Then turn your feet out 45 degrees keeping your heels off of the floor. Relax your body onto the ball, resting your forehead on the ball. You will want to keep your neck relaxed.
Begin to roll forward and back to the starting position as your lower abdominals gently press into the ball. Finally, remember to press your pubic bone gently into the ball. This helps your lower back and hips relax. This is an excellent deep-core exercise for both women and men.
Move 3: Hip Circles
One of my favorite exercises for back pain and hip pain during pregnancy is hip circles. Sit on top of the exercise ball and make sure it is made of anti-burst material. Sitting on the ball, you will have your feet slightly wider than hip distance or in a plie position.
Don’t worry about keeping your core engaged. You will sit tall and slowly do a pelvic circle in one direction. Focus on initiating the movement with the lower abdominal muscles and the pelvic floor and gently rock in circles. Repeat on the other side, switching directions with each circle.
Move 4: Bent Elbow Pullovers
This move is great for posture and shoulder health, and bonus: it works your abs too! To start, get into a bridge lying on the gym ball. Ensure your feed are pointing straight ahead, feet slightly wider than hip distance.
Your neck will relax on the ball so you feel comfortable, and go into a slight pelvic tilt to engage your pelvic floor in a slightly anterior position for your pelvis. The further along you are in your pregnancy, the more you might go into a shallow squat to keep your lower back relaxed. Hold the weights gently, keeping your elbows bent and close, drag the weight down towards the floor along the ball. Then, lift the weight from the muscles under the shoulder blade. Repeat for several repetitions, lifting and lowering the weights.