She Says… Working Out With Baby on Board

I have posted several times about the issue of working out while trying to conceive. It’s something a lot of women struggle with, as some doctors say “chill out on the cardio” and others say you don’t need to change a thing about your routine, and that exercise is a key part of making a healthy baby. When I first went off birth control pills back in February, I was the slimmest and most physically fit than I have been in my entire life. I had shifted my eating habits and lifestyle to be more conscious and health-focused about 2 years prior, and slowly but surely the extra pounds came off. I felt like I was at the top of my game. I worked out pretty hard about 5 days a week, and ate a balanced flexitarian diet of mostly veggies and whole grains, lots of low-fat dairy, and some meat (when it was high quality and hormone free).

When I didn’t get my period for a few months after stopping the pill, I began to wonder if I was working my body too hard in my workouts. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was certainly NOT training at the professional level, but I began to realize that maybe my body had a lower tolerance for extreme exercise than others, and maybe it was inhibiting my babymaking. So I called it quits on the really rough stuff — no more 4 mile runs a couple times a week, no more back-to-back weight lifting and cardio kickboxing classes, etc. I started practicing yoga at a studio near my house, and tried to get my kicks (pun intended) through power walking and shorter/easier stints on the stairmaster. While I realize now it was not my exercise that was keeping my period away (it was my PCOS), I still think this shift from gym rat to yogi was a really important one for me and my babymaking efforts.

So, I’m not gonna lie, I’ve gained a few pounds since changing my schedule. Nothing major, just about 5 pounds, and I’ve realized that this is probably my “happy weight”. I’m happy, healthy, I have a normal BMI (which I always did… I was never underwight) and I don’t have to push my heart rate out of my comfort zone 5 times a week to maintain it.

But I still enjoy going to the gym to feel like I’m keeping my body fit. So I took it VERY easy during the two weeks wait, just in case there was a little egg (or two!) trying to implant in my uterus. I did yoga a few times, and walked a lot, but skipped the gym for the most part. Then when I found out I was pregnant, I decided that plenty of women exercise while they are pregnant, so I probably could too. I have been trying to keep my heartrate around 140 bpm (which is recommended for pregnant women), but I’ve noticed that my body feels SO DIFFERENT while working out now.

  • My resting heart rate is faster. Which means that my heart rate while working out is faster. Which means that I have to go very, very slowly or with very little resistance before my heart rate reaches 140 bpm.
  • Almost as soon as I start exercising, I feel little dizzy spells. While this is a common pregnancy symptom, it is sort of scary if you’re on a stairmaster or treadmill.
  • Pregnant women are supposed to avoid extreme twisting, stretching or tension of the stomach muscles. That means no deep twists in yoga, no ab work, etc.

Yesterday at the gym I was so exhausted after 30 minutes on the stairmaster that I was dreading coming home to walk the dog. That’s when I realized that maybe I should just be relaxing, at least for the 1st trimester. My body has a lot going on, and why test the limits of what I can withstand just because I want to workout? And while I am slightly nervous about gaining more weight than I need to for my baby to be healthy, I think I will be happier if I know that I’m resting as much as possible and not doing anything to stress little piccolini out while he/she/they are developing in these very important first three months.

If you’ve been pregnant, did you work out during your first trimester? Have you heard doctor’s opinions one way or another?


30 responses to “She Says… Working Out With Baby on Board

  1. We are peas in a pod with the exercise, it’s something I am STILL grappling with seven months into trying. 🙂 I totally agree with you on laying low during the 1st trimester…it sounds like your body is sending that message and it certainly can’t hurt.

  2. I ran a half marathon the day after implantation, so don’t worry, those little suckers aren’t going to get shaken out!

    Just listen to your body, you will know when to scale back. I ran at the beginning, but the dizziness made that a no-go by 8 wks. Now I do flow yoga, treadmill hill walking, and the elliptical.

    My doctor never told me to not do twists or ab stretches in yoga, she just said not to do anything that I could fall (like a shoulder stand, etc).

    I’m even keeping up with kung fu (but pregnancy wouldn’t be a good time to start, but I’ve been doing it for years)

    Once you start getting pukey, then you might need to take some days off, especially if you can’t eat a lot.

    My doctor also told me that the 14o heartrate thing was an old wive’s tale and no science supports it. She said that I should be able to talk while I’m exercising, which for me is the 150-160 range.

    You will feel more energetic about working out in the 2nd trimester (14 wks and beyond)

  3. I have never been pregnant but I have known some women who have done pre-natal yoga. Is that something your yoga studio offers?

  4. I have been working out almost every single day the whole pregnancy (b/c that’s what I’m all about!), and my OB said just to “listen to your body”. I do mainly Pilates, Yoga, and walking-either outside or on the treadmill at an incline.
    She said to avoid too much time on your back after 20 weeks, so I haven’t been doing nearly the level of ab workouts I was accumstomed to. My new favorite thing is the Prental 10 Minute Pilates Solution DVD I got, it is really good and pretty strenuous. Good luck!

  5. When I had my son 13 months ago, I was in admittedly horrible shape. I was not working out and was in general, treating my body pretty badly. After going through labor I actually though it would have been easier if I would have been working out while I was pregnant, there’s a lot of huffing and puffing going on!

    I made a promise to myself that I would get in shape and start eating healthier after I had Alex. I started following healthy living blogs and in general, just changed my lifestyle to be more active and lost my pregnancy weight gain + 35 pounds and felt great.

    Now that I’m pregnant with my second, my Doctor said it’s fine to work out, just to pay attention to my body. If I’m working out, feeling great and feel like I could keep going, that’s fine but he doesn’t want me sweating bullets and struggling for breath. I think this is the best thing to do, it seems like you know you’re body very well so this would probably work well for you. And if you’re exhausted, which I know I am , take a day off and maybe just go for a walk.

  6. When I was pregnant, I was doing such a great job of exercising — although mostly just going on walks. Then I had a miscarriage and I haven’t exercised since. I think it’s really important for the baby’s health to exercise and it’s good to be in a routine before you’re pregnant — that said I really need to get back and start working out again. It’s been long enough now that my husband and I can start trying again.

  7. I don’t think you need to worry about gaining excess weight during the pregnancy. You seem to eat really well and have a good reading on what your body is telling you, so I’m sure you’ll get just enough exercise. My sister worked out very little during her pregnancy, but ate well and gained only baby weight. From the back you couldn’t even tell she was pregnant, but when she turned around…BAM. Huge pregnant belly. So cute.

  8. What Kara said. There’s a really great book, “Exercising through your pregnancy” by Dr. James Clapp, where he talks about the results of a clinical trial he did comparing people who exercised quite a bit during their pg with ‘normal controls’. The exercisers did quite a lot better on many measures. If you’re worried about exercising, I’d check it out, it made me feel a lot more comfortable about keeping up with my routine, which included ice hockey in the first tri, biking through the second, lifting weights and elliptical throughout. (I went to the gym the day before giving birth to my second).

    Dr. Clapp also debunks the 140 heart rate, as Kara mentioned.

    I think you should do what you want to, but just don’t feel like you *shouldn’t* exercise for the health of your pregnancy (of course, all this is different if you’re carrying twins, where you probably do want to be more cautious about exercise after the first tri).

  9. I am sure I said this before but I am so glad I found your blog. It seems like when I have a concern the next day you write a blog on that topic.

    I workout pretty hard. I do crossfit which is what alot of police, firefighters and military do. It is pretty intense. I normally would try to workout atleast 4-5 days a week but now that I am TTC I am not sure if I should slow down or continue.

    I think whether TTC or pregnant you really have to listen to your body and you are pretty good about that. The bright side is your dog might get alot more walks.

  10. Well clearly i don’t have any first hand advice to give out, but like others, just listen to your body. If you have energy, exercise, if your body’s telling you to take it easy, try to do minimal exercise until you get to that 2nd trimester. Good luck, i’ll be interested to hear how it goes..

  11. Am pregnant now and my OBGYN says its actually good to exercise- though she’d advise against high impact and high risk stuff.

    I like what she says: labour and raising a child is more than a marathon, so, of course you should ensure your body’s up for the task.

  12. I was NOT a gym rat, so my situation is totally different. I walked on a pretty regular basis, but that’s all I was doing prior to conceiving. In fact, I’d gained 10 pounds that I needed to lose. BUT, when I got pregnant I had the same feelings you described. My heartrate got up to 140 almost immediately, on a very slow speed on the treadmill. I got winded easily. I got worn out easily. I attributed it totally to pregnancy because I wasn’t OUT of shape before, I just wasn’t in top-notch shape. Now that I’ve delivered (6.5 weeks ago) I feel FANTASTIC. It totally was the pregnancy that did me in. I feel like I could run miles (and I’ve never been a runner) because I have so much energy. I think it just takes a toll on your whole system. I had VERY low blood sugar during my pregnancy and that also made me feel like poop. I hope you FEEL fantastic while you’re pregnant, but you’re right that you probably need to take it easy. Stick to the eating healthy, the walking, and the yoga!

  13. I don’t have any personal experience to go by here but my friends and family all had no trouble with exercise except for lack of energy. Today is day 3 of clomid and all I can say is holy night sweats! Woke up drenched last night. Did this ever happen to you?

  14. Well, no babies for me but my sister ran the Boston Marathon very, very early into her pregnancy. She continued to run the whole time and felt great. I think it’s different for everyone. We have a yoga instructor at our Bikram studio who is about 25 weeks pregnant and still teaching and taking class. I’m a little uncertain if that extreme heat is good though (at least 105 degrees for 90 minutes). Good luck and just listen to your body…it knows best 😉

  15. I would ask your doctor before worrying too much about working out. My doctor said he didn’t really like me running, mostly because of the risk of injury to my joints (I guess your joints are more flexible right now). Other than that, though, he said I could do everything I normally do, just with caution. He said to be careful not to hurt my back, and the chances of hurting my baby are pretty slim.

    I am sure every doctor’s opinion is different though!

  16. suchagoodegg, I know, even though I agree that’s what my body is trying to tell me, it’s still hard to hear the call 🙂 Or at least to follow the advice. It’s not even that I am dying to work out at this point, I think I am just struggling with 1) will my pregnancy be healthier and easier if I continue to exercise, or 2) should I be relaxing for these first three months to do everything I can to prevent my new biggest fear, miscarriage. The thoughest part is, I know there’s no RIGHT answer. Even a doctor won’t know how hard I can work out until I reach my limit, and I don’t want to test the limits right now.

    Kara, You are amazing! Inspirational, for sure. I can’t imagine I’ll be kung-fuing in my third trimester 🙂 but I totally hear what you’re saying. Unfortunately since it took us so long to get pregnant, and we dealt with so many hurdles along the way, I am probably over-thinking the negative effects of exercise and letting fear get in the way. Either way, though, it can’t hurt to relax. I will have plenty of time to get back to exercising in the second and third trimesters, and after the baby is born.

    Sarah, Yes, my studio offers prenatal yoga on Sunday nights. So far my Sunday nights have been full, but as soon as I can, I’m definitely going to try that. I am sure I would really enjoy it.

    Jen, Wow, that is impressive! That’s great for you. As I said above, I think I will feel more comfortable with the idea once I get past the first trimester. As for now, I am a bit anxious about making it there with everyone healthy, so I’ll probably relax until then. And I have my first ultrasound on the 14th. so that will help calm my nerves as well!

    Sarah, Great advice, thank you! I appreciate hearing what your doctor said, especially considering you were not someone who was working out a lot prior to your first pregnancy.

    Jenny, I’m so sorry to hear that. I can’t imagine how difficult that would be. I do believe that exercise can help maintain a healthy pregnancy, but it’s hard to imagine I should be sweating bullets when I’m also working on growing a human being 🙂 I think it’s just hard for me to change my routine, but I will certainly welcome more walks and more yoga!

    Karley, Thank you! You’re totally right. I’m not a sloth who eats McDonald’s all day, so there’s no reason to think that not exercising for a few weeks is going to turn me into a couch potato. I walk about 4 miles every day for my commute anyway, and don’t usually “count” that into my daily workout, so I’m definitely not just sitting on my ass. So cute about your sis — I can only HOPE I am described like that next summer!

    Nico, You’re a brave woman! Thanks for the book recommendation, I will definitely check that out.

    Mary, Glad I am reading your mind! Chances are that it wouldn’t hurt for you to cut back on your routine a little while TTC. At least for me, it was a necessary mental shift away from me, me, me to focus more on the future baby. But you’re absolutely right about listening to your body — I just think that can be difficult for those of us who are used to “pushing through the pain”. You’re also right about the dog walks, Schnitzel will be so pleased with my new workout routine!

    Al, You make it sound so simple 🙂 And it is, I guess… it is all about listening to your body. But as I said to Mary, I think sometimes I have a difficult time allowing myself to skip my scheduled workout or change my plans, because I’m used to pushing myself hard. Sometimes I don’t know what my body is telling me! So, for that reason, I have decided to err on the side of caution and MAKE myself relax for at least the first tri.

    rie, Good advice from your OB. I am just working on finding the right balance for me right now. My body will definitely be up for the task of labor and raising a child, thanks to my general level of health right now (and for the last few years, especially). And I have to keep reminding myself that that is not going to change if I cut back on the gym-time for the next few weeks.

    Lauren, I am SO glad to hear your story. Congrats on a healthy delivery, and I’m so glad to hear that you got all of your energy back and more. Something to look forward to — there will be plenty of time to get back to my pre-baby body once the baby is here!

    Jennyh, I hope the Clomid is doin’ its thang for you! I don’t remember getting the night sweats while taking Clomid, but I have been getting them almost every night since ovulation, so I feel your pain. Hang in there, usually Clomid side-effects disappear after you take your last pill, so only two more days to go!

    Traci, Wow, go sis! That would push me waaaay past my limit (especially while pregnant), but that is awesome that she was able to do that. Yes, I’ve read the extreme temps of bikram are not good for pregnant ladies, but I guess your instructor just goes to show that we all have different levels of what is ok and what is not.

    Casey, Yes, I’m definitely adding this to the list of things to discuss at my first prenatal visit. In 1 1/2 weeks! I CAN’T WAIT to get my first ultrasound. If everything is progressing normally and healthily, I’m sure most of my fears will melt away.

  17. I thought working out during the 1st trimester was SO HARD because I was so tired. I can also remember being on the stair master and feeling so exhausted. So I took it easy during those 1st 12 week- but now I have more energy and back at the gym and feeling good! 🙂

  18. Hi. First and foremost Listen to your intuition.. some days you feel more energetic. So smart to take it easy for the first trimester, esp. in your case when you had to work so hard for this pregnancy(ies? if twins) so…but I for my first I walked @ 40 mins- 1 hr a day, a good pace, and it helped SO much. My labor was fast and I am not sure it was b/c the walking but it couldn’t have hurt. I also only gained 25 lbs. and ate pretty healthfully too but it allowed me the occasional indulgence without worrying about gestational diabetes/excess weight gain. And I lost it pretty easily (and then some) post partum.. all with walking. I hear yoga is just as effective (esp with labor!!!) . I stayed away from stirmaster/the elliptical b.c like you i was worried about shaking things up a bit at first. But.. exercise is a must in some level to relax you, thus good for baby:) walks are enough if you fear straining yourself. Some days you feel tired, a 15 minute walk around the block is ok too. Just the fresh air is enough.

  19. I tried my hardest to maintain my workout schedule while pregnant, but agree that listening to your body is key. I practice power vinyasa yoga (in heat), and because my practice had been consistent for a few years, I continued until about 34 weeks while taking care to back off in class when I needed to and push harder only when it felt good (and sometimes it does!) 1st trimester was hard, 2nd trimester felt awesome, and 3rd trimester was good too until the last few weeks. I also incorporated prenatal flow yoga, which I loooooved and continued until a few days before I delivered. I enjoyed that it 1.) kept my lower back and core in check, which helped me avoid ANY back pain through my pregnancy 2.) introduced me to other pregnant women and 3.) prepared my body for labor and delivery. I also experienced the added benefit of being able to fit into pre-pregnancy pants 6 days after delivering. If you’re enjoying yoga, but want something a little more active, try to find a prenatal flow class.

    Whatever you choose to do, I found that for me, the commitment to exercise was really important not only for my health but also for building the stamina needed for labor and delivery.

  20. OMG, I leave the country and you get a baby on board. I am beyond thrilled for you and your husband. Congrats!!

  21. I’m 17 weeks now and have been exercising since the beginning. I have taken thing down a notch, but doing similar exercises. Trying to do about 30 min cardio most days (or just walking) plus weight training 2 days/week and yoga sometimes. I believe exercise kept my energy up and my symptoms at bay during the 1st tri. I have now gained a total of 5 pounds, right on target. It’s easy to gain too much and exercise keeps it in line. Just listen to your body!

  22. Elaine, I’m glad to hear you say that — it means it won’t last forever! Yes, I think my body is telling me to slow down and stick to walking and maybe some yoga. I did not feel good on the stairmill yesterday. Not to mention the pungent smells in the gym… yikes! My super sniffer is in full swing now.

    Cari, Good for you to only gain 25 lbs and take that off (and then some) post-baby! I can only hope I’ll be so lucky. I walk about 4 miles on my daily commute, so even without doing anything “extra” I’m definitely getting some good walks in, which is great! Thank you for the support to rest up 🙂 Maybe I just needed to hear other people say it!

    Laurie, Wow, power vinyasa yoga until 34 weeks! You are a machine!

    MyHormonesMadeMeDoIt, I hope you had a wonderful trip! You said you wanted to hear good news when you got back, so here you go. We’re really pregnant 🙂 Although I’m nervous about a whole new list of things now, I’m trying to relax until our first ultrasound on Dec. 14th.

    Eve, That is great! Good for you. I imagine I will pick things up once I see that little heartbeat(s?) in our ultrasound in a week and a half. Until then I am just SCARED to shake things up or get overheated or stress my body out in any way.

  23. After years of under eating and over exercising, it was really hard for me to transition to eating well and exercising less. But I still worry that I damaged my body and I’m still suffering the consequences. I’ve definitely gone from a borderline too skinny person to a quite curvy girl and that’s ok.It’s where my body is meant to be, as you said. Listen to your body – you can’t go wrong!

  24. I’m just a few weeks out of my first trimester, and my energy level, and thus motivation to exercise, is returning. I have a 15 month old and have been squeezing in my workouts in the early morning before he wakes up, but during the first tri there was absolutely no way I could get myself out of bed to do early morning exercise – I was exhausted and nauseous! I tried to take afternoon walks instead when it worked with my schedule. I’m feeling better now and have had much more motivation to get moving in the morning, but I’m avoiding my high impact tapes and DVDs, and generally taking it easier. This was the same pattern I found with my first pregnancy – more resting in the first tri, returned energy in the second, and then gradually slowing down in the third (although I managed a decent bike ride about 12 hours before giving birth…)

    If your body is telling you to rest, then listen…it will let you know when it is ready to get moving again! I wouldn’t worry about the weight gain – you know how to eat well and take care of yourself with exercise, and you will find the right balance both to gaining the necessary pregnancy weight, and to loosing it after!

    I have also heard that the 140 bpm recommended heart rate is a myth – and that you are OK to continue to workout at the level you were at prior to conception.

  25. I often wonder if my physical activity is what caused my miscarriage. I had been eating well for probably about a year before we started TTC. Even before that, my diet was decent. I played hockey (yes, ice hockey, but just recreationally, no hitting) and was going to hot yoga. When i got pregnant and had my first appointment with my doc, she advised me just to take it easy at hockey and to stop doing hot yoga because it was too hot and strenuous. So, I followed her instructions as well as I could, but with my competitive nature, I still played somewhat hard in hockey and definitely took a few falls.
    I had a miscarriage at 8 weeks.
    We are just about to start trying again, so I definitely think that when I’m pregnant again, I am going to take it REALLY easy on the exercise and just stick to walking or something really low impact.

  26. I was a workout freak before getting pregnant, but I was honestly too scared to push myself once I found out I was expecting. I did the occasional treadmill walk and prenatal yoga dvd, but I didn’t do much. Then at 28 weeks I had bleeding so I stopped working out altogether. I gained 40 lbs (my son was born at 38 weeks at only 6 lbs!) and 4 months later I’ve returned to my PPW. I haven’t had much time to work out with a new baby, but carrying him around all day is plenty! My recommendation is to take it easy. Once your son or daughter is born, you won’t be able to take it easy for the next 18 years! 😉

  27. So I always thought that I would be that girl who worked out through her entire pregnancy…and then I got pregnant. The first few weeks I felt awesome and thought, “oh, this isn’t bad at all!” I ate right and continued my hectic schedule…and then the morning sickness hit. I felt like I had a constant hangover from the time I woke up in the morning until I went to bed at night. This lasted two months. And during this time, I ate like crap and laid around on the couch – EXACTLY LIKE I WAS HUNG OVER!! 🙂

    Now that I am in the 2nd trimester and feeling better, I WANT to start working out, but I get short of breath easily. So I stick to walking and stretching and maybe some light 5-8 lb weights. I hear swimming is great, but I don’t want to spend the money on a gym membership. 🙂

    In the end, just listen to your body. It will let you know if you are doing too much, and it will take on a mind of it’s own…which can be very frustrating! Esp when I gained most of my weight in the 1st trimester!! I haven’t gained weight now for over a month and the baby is doing fine, so I think everything’s even-ing out. But it was scary there for awhile…I had visions of mumus and triple chins!!

    Somehow our bodies just know what to do, and I know you will do a great job of doing what’s right for you and that precious baby!! 🙂

    Sorry for the NOVEL! :0

  28. APlusB, Our bodies are pretty amazing; I bet that now that you are eating well (and enough) and exercising the proper amount, your body has balanced itself again. You can’t change the past, but it sounds like you are definitely on the right track now to being a healthy baby hotel very soon!

    Janelle, Thank you! I think your “plan” of relaxing during the first trimester, working out when you have energy again in the 2nd trimester and continuing activity, but reducing/adjusting, in the 3rd sounds perfect. Good for you to squeeze in exercise with another little one at home — I imagine that would be quite a struggle!

    tasha, I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. I have read that most miscarriages are caused by chromosomal abnormalities, not over-exercise or even falls, but I can only imagine it is hard not to wonder if there is something you could have done to avoid it. GOOD LUCK trying again.

    Alison, Wow, I am so happy to hear you say that. Good for you to already be back to your pre-pregnancy weight! You are an inspiration! And I like your advice… you never can be too careful in these early months, and there will be plenty of time to take those pounds off again. I guess I should try to enjoy this period of putting my feet up!

    Nikol, I’m so glad you’re feeling better now that you’re out of the first tri! Sounds like quite a haze you were in 😦 Hungover everyday does NOT sound like much fun. But you’re right, our bodies DO know how to balance all of this — so even if I feel like I’m gaining a lot of weight or sitting on my butt all day, it will all even out over the course of the pregnancy. Thank you!

  29. I couldn’t work out in the first trimester…. I picked up my power walking again in the second trimester… I used to run a mile a day and my heart rate is just to fast now. I walk, with no weights.

  30. joybadluckclub

    before i found out i was preggers, i worked out at least an hour a day, 6 days a week… running, strength training and pilates. i completely stopped doing everything, mostly because i was nauseated 24/7 and so exhausted that brushing my teeth before i collapsed into bed became a challenge. good luck with everything, and congrats again! 🙂

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