As you may know, our Shape Your Pregnancy campaign is all about dismantling the myths and misconceptions surrounding exercise in pregnancy and creating a platform where women from around the world can access the resources, motivation, and understanding needed to shape their pregnancy their way.
We have to start by busting these myths apart and changing not only how we view ourselves during pregnancy, but by changing the larger conversation around pregnancy and how everyone thinks of prenatal exercise. We want no more judgment, no more shame, no more criticism – and in its place a whole lot more support, understanding, and championing of healthy, active pregnancies.
So let’s crack these myths wide open and get to some real truths – because that’s where the fun is!
Top 6 Pregnancy Exercise Myths
1. Exercise during pregnancy can harm your baby.
The truth is, your baby is really well protected in your womb. The amniotic fluid that surrounds baby acts like a shock absorber, so when you’re moving around, your baby is quite content within his or her cushioned little bubble. There is no evidence that exercise harms baby during pregnancy – and in fact, the evidence strongly suggests otherwise (read more here, here and here!).
Things to consider: if you have a high-risk pregnancy or other complicating conditions where your doctor has specifically advised you to not engage in rigorous exercise, then that is guidance you should take very seriously. It doesn’t mean you can’t stay active, but it may mean your exercise routine looks a bit different – and that’s perfectly OK. Most pregnancies are not considered high risk and exercise is definitely recommended in all ‘normal’ pregnancies. Be sure to follow along with our stage-specific guidelines for things you can do to exercise effectively throughout your pregnancy!
2. Exercise will just make you more tired
Here’s the thing: exercise increases blood circulation. That blood carries oxygen to all parts of your body – including your brain. And what that increased oxygenation does is help wake you up, making you, yes, less tired! Now if you work out to a point of complete fatigue and exhaustion, then you will be more tired after exercise. But there is no need to push it that hard, and you shouldn’t exercise yourself to a fatigue while pregnant. You can challenge your body and get a good workout in by doing it from a place of positivity and listening to what your body tells you. Exercise is about rewarding your body and keeping it strong – not punishing it by pushing it past its limits.
3. You can’t play sports while pregnant
Tell that to Serena Williams! Or Kerri Walsh Jennings. Or all the other athletes who competed and kicked butt while pregnant. Now these women compete at a high level every day and they are in a position to continue with rigorous exercise during pregnancy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t continue with your sport as well.
Things to consider: High-impact, contact sports where you could easily lose your balance or be struck in the stomach aren’t the best idea while pregnant. But there are loads of low-no contact sports you can play and enjoy throughout your pregnancy. Listen to your body, know your limits, and make sure you think critically about the level of contact and falling risk involved in your sport and use that to guide you. You can always ask your healthcare professional for their guidance on the matter as well.
4. If you didn’t exercise before pregnancy you shouldn’t exercise while pregnant
You absolutely can and should be as active as possible while pregnant, even if you weren’t the most active before. If you didn’t exercise at all before becoming pregnant we wouldn’t recommend going to a spin class, HIIT class, or starting half-marathon training off the bat. But you can gradually introduce your body to physical activity, and maintain an exercise routine throughout your pregnancy.
Think about where your fitness level is now and set small incremental goals to get more active and in a fitness mindset. During pregnancy, it’s all about maintaining healthy physical fitness and moderate exercise 3-4 days a week can help you get there. You can start by going for a 10-minute walk, 3 times a week at the start. The next week up it to 15-minute walks. The next week try to do 4 days a week for 15 minutes. The next week push for four 20-minute power walks… You catch our drift. Start gradually and keep at it!
5. You should only do prenatal exercise classes during pregnancy
You can totally do “regular” exercise classes while pregnant. Because you are pregnant does not mean you are suddenly relegated to doing only activities that have a “prenatal” label on them. That said, prenatal classes are an awesome way to meet other women in your area that are in a similar stage as you, so we definitely encourage trying some out! But it’s OK to stick to your regular classes as long as you discuss any health concerns with your doctor ahead of time and get clearance, let your instructor know you are pregnant, and listen to your body while in the class. You might not push yourself as hard as you did before pregnancy, but you can still get a great workout and stick to the things you love.
6. By exercising, you’re putting your body first over what’s best for your baby
We hope you never believe this, and we hope no one ever makes you feel this way. Your growing baby is a part of your body and taking care of yourself as best you can is one of the very best things you can do your child. You matter mama, and you deserve your health and happiness – don’t ever forget that.
For more information and inspiration – check out our campaign website.