Let’s talk about body shaming during pregnancy
Almost every week, I read a new article bashing a woman for exercising during her pregnancy. It seems that we are judging these women based upon what we think the average woman should look like while pregnant, as if all women should look and act the same while carrying their children.
Why do we even set these so called “standards”? Why do we feel the need to compare & criticize other women during such a special time in their lives? Why aren’t we lifting each other up and supporting other moms for the healthy choices that they are making during their pregnancies? Maybe it’s time we educate ourselves on the importance of pregnancy exercise and choose to stand together in motherhood.
Choosing to be healthy & active during pregnancy provides enormous benefits for both mom and baby. Exercising during pregnancy hasn’t been super popular until recently. In fact, most medical professionals in the past have recommended that women avoid exercise (other than walking and light weights) while pregnant.
Dr. James Clapp performed a study on women during their pregnancies and how exercise affected them during this time. His studies showed us that not only is living an active lifestyle completely safe during pregnancy but that it provides endless benefits to both mom AND baby.
Some of these advantages include:
50% less chance in of birth-related interventions [pitocin, c-section, epidural, etc.]
Less low back & pelvic pain during pregnancy
Less labor time
Less chance of heart disease for the child at any time during its life
Higher Apgar scores immediately after birth
Bigger & healthier lungs upon birth
Higher IQ by the age of 5
Less chance of childhood obesity
When I read these articles judging active women for their pregnancy lifestyle, I think about my clients and how every single one of them feels empowered through movement and exercise during their pregnancies.
One client recalls “feeling more connected to her core at 28-weeks pregnant than she ever did pre-pregnancy” and how post birth her body had been healing in a magnificent way; so much so that she felt “in their own skin again” within weeks after birth.
I’m not sure what is bad or negative about any woman feeling those things nor do I know why we feel the need to judge women for doing the best they can to provide for their child. If you knew that something you chose to do would have a positive, life-long effect on your child, wouldn’t you do it? That’s exactly what these women are doing every day they choose to sweat it out and push through a single workout. It’s not always easy, and it’s not always something they feel like doing while growing a human inside of them, but they choose to do it because they hope to be the best mom they can be, and for them, this starts during pregnancy.
Even though I’m a strong believer in exercising while pregnant and all the yummy benefits it provides to mom and baby, I do have some strong opinions on the types of exercises that should be avoided during this time.
The importance of Pelvic Floor Health & Functional Pregnancy Core Training
First, CrossFit is NOT a pregnancy workout, in my opinion. Many experts agree that CrossFit is not an optimal work-out for pregnant women past 25-28 weeks. One topic that isn’t talked about much in mainstream prenatal fitness is pelvic floor health. When you’re pregnant and regularly lifting heavy weights or jumping around [Plyo workouts], the force the pelvic floor muscles can be damaging. It’s just not worth it in my opinion. If you love CrossFit & Plyo workouts, resume them once you’ve healed from your birth. Changing it up for 12 months is a lot easier than having to recover from pelvic floor and other physical issues down the road.
Second, there are way more appropriate exercises than crunches, supine leg lifts, and planks. Most prenatal exercise specialists agree that they should be avoided entirely during pregnancy. There are so many other ways to challenge the core during pregnancy. I teach a belly pumping technique that helps mamas stay connected to the muscles of the growing belly. This method embraces the natural growth of the belly while keeping the mother connected to her deep core muscles. With this simple practice, these moms are more comfortable during their pregnancy & feel more in control of their changing bodies. If you want to avoid abdominal separation, STOP traditional ab exercises post 13 weeks and begin a more functional core training program for your growing bump.
At the end of it all, small bump, big bump, exercising or not, I think it’s safe to say that the judgmental & hurtful comments should stop. Women should be praised and lifted up by other women, creating a sisterhood of love and trust during the pregnancy journey. Pregnancy doesn’t look identical to anyone, but we have all been given this sacred gift of birthing children, and each of us gets to choose how we live out our pregnancies. It’s time we do it together, hand in hand, supportive, and NEVER judging the other.