Pregnancy: Reclaiming our empowerment UPDATED, round 2.
Updated: Dec 3, 2021
Incoming a lil pregnancy chat... When I fell pregnant with Minnie I wanted to share my knowledge in fitness & wellness to empower woman along their pregnancy journey. I curated our first Bumpin' classes - a 4wk intensive workshop guiding birds & their bumps through movement & mindfulness. Being pregnant while teaching these classes made it all the more powerful. Minnie is now 15 months old & I am 20wks pregnant with our son, we are beyond excited to be growing our family. Bumpin' is now a weekly 60min class on our Fitbirds timetable & my fave moment of the week. To bring birds & bumps together to take time to check in with themselves, their growing baby & to harness their super powers through movement, breath & meditation - is everything.
The following I wrote while pregnant with Minnie, I stand by & support my words. Together let's spread the the word birds, knowledge is power.
As I roll into my third trimester, with 3 months to go a little mini panic sweeps over me "I am going to be enormous" by the time this little girl arrives. Of course I had visions of being one of those tiny pregnant birds who is all bump and nothing else, but who was I kidding? These midget legs were never going to serve me well in gaining weight. So insecurities, cellulite & rounding face out in the open - it's time for acceptance (let it go, let it gooooo!) and gratitude of all the ahhhhamazing things! What a privilege it is to be pregnant, it is no secret how difficult it is for some to fall pregnant these days. Following a heartbreaking miscarriage last year I am even more grateful for this little bambina growing inside me. I am healthy, strong and moving! Touch wood it stays this way and I have the chance to keep myself happy in the body and the mind through continuous movement. I may not be reaping any of the physical gains through exercise and movement anymore, but dem good ole endorphins are giving me all the feels!
For all the pregnant birds & soon to be here are my Top Myths To Bust and Top Tips To Reclaiming Empowerment.
DISCLAIMER: If you are a high risk pregnancy or have any concerns about exercising approach your health specialists (GPs, midwives, Physio) for their advice before busting a move.
Top Myths To Bust
1. I must not exercise during the first trimester
It's super common to hear 'just rest, rest, rest' and 'exercise can harm your baby'. Firstly, of course rest is best, if you are feeling tired! In the first 12 weeks we are growing a fully legit human with ALL its mini organs and functions (mind officially blown). So of course you're gunna be tired and wanna catnap, feel outta breath and wanna eat your way all existing beige food know to man. But did you know that this magical process is all happening on such a molecular level than no external exercise or movement can possibly harm your growing baby? Studies have been done (yup insert image: pregnant rats boosting on treadmills) along with actual real life athlete humans, both of which indicate no change in baby's health & growth.
2. I must not exercise at all during pregnancy
I think we can all safely agree that this is from the prehistoric ages! We know exercise keeps us strong, happy and healthy, I'm pretty sure being pregnant is one of those times when we want to ensure we are strong, happy and healthy!
3. Lifting weights and doing HIIT during pregnancy is dangerous
The general rule of thumb is - don't start anything new, this is mostly to dodge any chance of injury from exercising with poor technique. Lifting weights to keep strong and continuing with your HIIT to keep fit & strong are recommended. BUT keep in mind you will not be lifting the same, there's no need to lift heavy weights and perhaps explosive/jumping movements may not feel good for you, maybe jumping feeling amazing! A reminder - it is so important to train safely and effectively throughout the different stages of your pregnancy so get educated and know the correct modifications.
4. I can't train my abs when pregnant
After the first trimester baby continues to grow and starts to put pressure on your abdominal wall and your organs. We need to make space for our growing baby so maintaining your 'six pack' is quite (simply putting it) useless and counterproductive. Now there's the other side - planking, sit-ups, even full push-ups could put too much outward pressure on your abdominal wall in turn causing your abs to split. (eeeep!) A little 'splitting open' of your abs is perfectly normal and this 'diastasis recti separation' should naturally seal after birth. This is a subject that all mama birds should get clued up on ASAP - excessive ab separation could be caused from too much ab exercises OR it could be from holding a big bubba or even be aggravated after birth by picking up baby or something heavy or performing exercise incorrectly (too much too soon). The babes at The Bloom Method have a wealth of info in this subject to share with you, so get reading or following them. Which brings us back to busting the myth - "I can't exercise my abs when pregnant". During pregnancy we can benefit from having a strong CORE. Your core includes your lower back, Transverse Abdominus & glutes (in my opinion). By keeping this network of muscles strong we can reduce back pain, postural imbalances, SPD and other hip issues, pelvic floor dysfunction and excessive abdominal separation. You can also give yourself a better chance a calmer birth and a smoother recovery. The key to all of this though birds - the power is all in the breathing techniques - so get breathing like a baby! Exercises to keep your core strong throughout & beyond your pregnancy we suggest are: Glute bridges, clams, toe taps and bird dog. If you feel strong & stable performing full pushups or other exercises which involve your core as stabilising muscles, be mindful of "doming" or "coning" while performing. If you are able to maintain your TVA connection during these exercises, you shouldn't dome & could safely continue.
5. I'm on bed rest, I can't exercise
This totally sucks, but for whatever reason you have been medically confined to bedrest - my heart goes out to you as you're probably feeling pretty goddam 'un-empowered' right now. Your doctors know best and the advice must be listened to. But your body also (even more so now) needs to stay strong, happy and healthy right? How tho? I recommend gentle stretching from bed to prevent postural imbalances and unnecessary tension, the use of correct breathing techniques, (simply breathing deeeeeeply into your belly - belly rises as you inhale and simply letting alllllll the air go - belly deflates on the exhale) connecting with your pelvic floor and simple exercises to maintain conditioning of your muscles, it could be as simple as using mini hand weights to keep the arms moving. Either way - ask your GP, Physio or health specialist what you can do.
6. Only 'prenatal or pregnancy classes' are safe for me while pregnant
Pfft, ok so I may be a little dismissive here - but as a PT the thought of those wishy washy pregnancy classes makes me eyeball roll a bit (pleeease no offence this is just me personally and of course these classes are safe, effective and serve a wonderful purpose) .To elaborate, these pregnancy classes are here for a reason. They are here to offer you a safe and supported environment where you can connect with your body and baby, also win - you'll be surrounded by other amazing women on a similar journey! BUT you are definitely not restricted or confined to these classes only. It all comes back to being clued up on correct technique and knowing the safe modifications. Let your teacher know you're pregnant before class. If the trainer/instructor doesn't feel comfortable teaching you they'll let you know. Or if they don't offer you the support you are after - find another class and get your own research done! Finding a PT who specialises in pre/postnatal training for some 1:1 to get your educated is a brilliant way to set you off for an empowered pregnancy!
7. I cannot twist, back bend or lay on my back while pregnant
During your first trimester there are some who suggest twisting my dislodge the egg during implantation. There is no evidence to support this. Contraindications with a deep closed twisted & laying on your back is the risk of putting strain on your vena cava nerve which could restrict blood flow to your lower organs & baby. Before the alarm bells ring, you will feel light headed or dizzy and come out of the twist or roll to the side before any damage is done. Twisting & back bending are fundamental movements for a healthy & happy spine including during pregnancy. Tip: Twist from the mid & upper spine & take “open twists” meaning you allow space for bump as your twist. Contraindications with back bending is you could stretch too deep putting too much strain on your abdominal wall. If you are weary of this switch your deep back bends to gentle posterior chain strengthening work such as glute bridges & bird dog.
Top Tips To Reclaiming Empowerment
1. Listen to your body birds
We have lost touch with ourselves birds, we no longer follow our intuition or our gut instincts. We are inundated with Dr Google, with health specialists and with a million other mamas overloading us with information. Yes this information is helpful, the science and studies are incredibly educational, but remember you are ultimately your best teacher. You hold the inner powers and you know your body the best. So LISTEN to your body birds - If running makes you feel happy in the mind and body then run. If meditating and low impact swimming nurtures your mental wellbeing then do it. If lifting those heavy weights starts to hurt your back them stop it, or reduce your weight, modify the exercise or stretch more. The key is to pay attention to the signals we are being sent - whether they are physical signs in the body showing up or they are mental and energetic signs of potential stress or lethargy. The use those signals to move your body responsively.
2. Regular exercise is important for all humans - especially pregnant women
There are moments in life where being physically strong is really really important. During pregnancy & becoming a mama bird are top of my list. Your body needs to be strong to support your growing bump, you body is going through the single biggest, physical change it will ever go through. Let's give it the best possible chance a success!
3. Get educated
Knowledge is power. Research and understand the what is happening to your wonderfully changing body. It is incredibly rewarding to understand the miracle of the human body growing a baby! How though? As mentioned before getting some 1:1 PT sessions with a pre/postnatal trainer can give you the knowledge, support and confidence you need to continue moving on your own throughout pregnancy. Read read read and ask ask ask questions! Ask your fitness, yoga and exercise professionals, we love to help and support, that's why we are doing what we do!
Follow informative Instas, here are a couple of my faves:
And obvs, get yourself to fitness pregnancy class - online or in person, like our fave Bumpin' Birds with ME!!!
4. Feel supported
Feeling the support birds is super important - find an exercise and movement tribe who you resonate with! Maybe that is your pre-pregnancy workout buddies who you love to move with and know that have the safety of your pregnancy top priority. Make sure your PT, fitness instructors know you are pregnant so they can support you the best way they know how - which might mean referring you to a pregnancy specific tribe!
5. Be ready to 'let it go let it gooo"
Let go of it ALL! From the ideal pregnancy and birth. To the ideal pregnancy body to wanna don, right down to the way you are moving and the frequency you are moving! Because there will come a point where movements are restricted, you may feel weak and heavy from carrying around the extra weight and heck, you might just wanna slither like a snail through your exercise as opposed to your normal bolting like Jesscia Ennis!
6. Being tough on yourself could also be seen as been kind.
Of course I appreciate the gentle reminders from basically everyone to "slow down, relax and look after yourself & "your body is telling you to eat the cake". But it almost gives me permission to not give a shit about 'my body is my temple', which is not OK. I suffer from insane sugar cravings while pregnant & even though it is so hard to kick I will continue to try dodge the junk. I know it makes me feel awful, I wouldn't ever normally fuel my body with such crap & more over, my little growing bump doesn't need it either. So birds, really make sure you are making the best decision for you and your baby. Let's nourish our body with movement & balanced nutrition. Eat the colours of the rainbow! (Keep that cake and horizontal action to around 20% of the time, or when you reeeeeeally honestly need it). When that pesky first trimester has passed & you have found your super powers - schedule in your exercise sessions, plan your healthy meals & curb our time for self care.
7. Continue doing what you love
God bless you pregnancy yoga, but for me personally it's just too chill. I'm educated enough to know how to safely and effectively move my body that I can reap the rewards I love from my fave yoga classes and teachers. (Please note: I am ALL for pregnancy yoga for those who wanna little support, gentle movement and sweet QT building with your baby). So on that note, stick to what you love. Make sure you are clued up on how to safely modify, make sure you listen to your body and do your research so you feel confident. Because a happy mama is a happy buba!
Pregnant mamas, we are not made of porcelain, we are more capable than we think.
We welcome pregnant birds to ALL of our classes. Our trainers & teachers are all educated to know how to safely support you throughout all stages of your pregnancy. Simply talk to the trainer at the start of class about where you are at in your pregnancy.
Join our pregnancy class Bumpin' every Thursday 6.30pm, Friends Meeting House SE23 2QA. We love all birds & all bumps x