There are many myths floating around surrounding exercising during and directly after pregnancy — many of which are not only false, but could ultimately impact the health of your pregnancy. Instead of relying on rumors, false information, and old wives' tales, we have consulted the experts to set the record straight and bust the biggest myths about working out both during and directly after pregnancy.
Myth: Exercising during pregnancy can hurt the baby
Dr. Alyssa Dweck, OBGYN and author of the newest book, The Complete A to Z for Your V explains that some of her clients worry that working out during pregnancy could “hurt” their baby — and this totally isn’t the case. “This couldn’t be further from the truth in most cases of uncomplicated gestation,” she explains to LIVESTRONG.
Myth: Pregnancy is a good time to start a new exercise regimen
You should avoid trying new types of workout during pregnancy, to avoid potential injury, explains Women’s Reproductive + Fertility Endocrinology Specialist Shahin Ghadir, MD. “For example, if you never did pilates you should not start while pregnant,” he says. “Only new exercises specific to a prenatal regimen as suggested by a doctor should be newly engaged.”
Myth: Slow down your workouts as your pregnancy progresses
Many people believe that when it comes to exercising during pregnancy, you should start off strong while your belly is still small and tone it down over time. However, fitness trainer Ramona Braganza, who helped whip Halle Berry, Jessica Alba, and Ashlee Simpson back into shape with her 3-2-1 Baby Bulge Be Gone program after their pregnancies, explains that this isn’t necessarily the case.
“You actually have more energy in the second trimester than the first,” she explains. Because that is oftentimes the case, she sees many of her clients less during the first trimester when they are more fatigued, and more often during the second trimester.
While many women continue working out during the third trimester, Braganza reveals they tend to taper it down toward the end of their pregnancy, opting for a gentler program. Some even skip the gym altogether and opt for light swimming, aquatic exercises, or prenatal yoga. “Listen to your body,” she advises. However, during the final trimester Dr. Ghadir encourages you to speak with your OBGYN, “due to the fact that many complications and issues can arise.”
Myth: Avoid all ab exercises during pregnancy
Just because you have a baby bump, doesn’t mean you have to avoid strengthening your core — but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can continue doing crunches, sit ups and planks as usual. “You should avoid being flat on your back after approximately 20 weeks, so as to avoid now heavier uterus pressure on the vena cava (the big vein that returns blood to the heart), since this can lower blood maternal pressure and theoretically cause blood flow to placenta to decline,” explains Dr. Dweck.
Myth: Avoid weight lifting during pregnancy
You can continue to do weights during pregnancy — even during the second trimester — explains Braganza. She emphasizes it is especially important to work on your legs, as it helps to have them strong for delivery. “I usually have my clients do seated upper body exercises safely with medium to light weights and higher repetitions,” she explains.
If you aren’t working with a trainer, Dr. Dweck suggests using weight machines or enlisting a “spotter” as pregnancy progresses. “Many pregnant women, especially in the later trimesters have lax joints, get clumsy, have altered center of gravity and might be more prone to injury with free weights,” she explains. So please be careful!
Myth: You should only take prenatal exercise classes
You don’t have to stop going to yoga, SoulCycle or any other group classes you love just because you're pregnant. However, you might want to make some modifications to the class — and definitely let the instructor know you are pregnant. “I advocate monitoring perceived exertion and fatigue levels, wearing a pulse monitor, hydrating well and informing the trainer or instructor in a group class of pregnancy,” suggests Dr. Dweck. Most importantly, listen to your body. If something doesn't feel right, you can and should always stop.
Myth: You can gain as much as you want during pregnancy
No, pregnancy isn't the time to eat for two and take a vacation from your workout routine. Most doctors recommend a weight gain of 25-35 pounds during pregnancy. Not only can an excess of weight gain contribute to back and leg pain, and increase your risk of developing hemorrhoids and varicose veins, but it can also increase your risk of developing gestational diabetes. Another benefit of maintaining a healthy weight during pregnancy is it will make your postpartum workouts that much easier.
Myth: You have to wait 6 weeks postpartum before working out
Many women assume they have to wait six weeks after giving birth to resume exercising, but according to Braganza that isn’t always the case. “I start many of my clients who exercised during their pregnancy at around two weeks postpartum, with about 20 minutes of light to moderate exercise,” she explains.
While it may be okay to get back into the gym earlier than six weeks, Braganza advises speaking to your doctor first to make sure. If you delivered via a c-section or had significant tearing, they may want you to wait longer. And no matter when you decide to start up again, she also suggests taking it easy at first and listening to your body. If you feel any strange pain or experience bleeding, stop your workout and contact your doctor immediately.
Myth: Your body will never be the same after pregnancy
While some women might claim pregnancy changes their body permanently, it isn’t always the case. In fact, Braganza explains many of her clients have gotten back to their pre-baby weight in less than year — and some even end up looking and feeling better than ever. However, it doesn't happen overnight. “You have to allow your body enough time to return back to the way it used to look,” she explains. Also, it isn't just going to "bounce back" — you need to exercise and eat healthy in order to see change.
Also, hello — you just gave birth to a human being! Cut yourself some slack, remember self-love and take your sweet time on the journey back to fitness.