The Pregnant Athlete

Whether you’ve already seen two lines on a pregnancy test or not, it’s important to understand how your movement can change as a pregnant athlete. Now, you’re working out with a built-in weight vest!

This is part two of a three part series brought to you by new mom, Coach Christy, and soon to be mom, Coach Tina.  They are both pre and post partum athleticism certified coaches and they’re launching Moms in Motion at the end of March.  If you missed the fist one you can find it here.



Changes in your body


Back to anatomy (see the first post for a full breakdown), your core is a closed pressure system. When a baby starts to grow and push on your vital organs and disrupt the pressurized container, you may start to feel different in not only how you move, but how you breathe and eat. Pregnancy is a temporary transition state that requires some modifications and adjustments compared to when you weren’t pregnant.



Why are you exercising?


Most pregnancy exercise guidelines are focused on the health of the baby, not the expectant mother. There are no exercises specifically to “train for birth”. The goal of training during pregnancy should be focused on your ultimate goals.

For most people, this involves a happy and enjoyable pregnancy with minimal symptoms that leads to the birth of a healthy baby. Most people in the gym are not competitive athletes, so can take a temporary “pause” on training for a specific performance goal (like a fast Fran time) to place more focus on some mental and emotional goals of training, like adaptability and enjoyment. See the table below for factors to consider, as well as specific movements to adjust in each trimester.



What do the experts say?


The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are the experts in the medical field that created opinion recommendations for physical activity in the pregnant and post-partum periods:


  • Physical activity in pregnancy has minimal risks and has been shown to benefit most women, although some modifications to exercise routines may be necessary because of normal anatomic and physiologic changes and fetal requirements.
  • A thorough clinical evaluation should be conducted before recommending an exercise program to ensure that a patient does not have a medical reason to avoid exercise.
  • Women with uncomplicated pregnancies should be encouraged to engage in aerobic and strength-conditioning exercises before, during and after pregnancy.
  • Obstetrician-gynecologists and other obstetric care providers should carefully evaluate women with medical or obstetric complications before making recommendations on physical activity participation during pregnancy. Although frequently prescribed, bed rest is only rarely indicated and in most cases, allowing ambulation should be considered.
  • Regular physical activity during pregnancy improves or maintains physical fitness, helps with weight management, reduces the risk of gestational diabetes in obese women, and enhances psychologic well-being.
  • Additional research is needed to study the effects of exercise on pregnancy-specific outcomes, and to clarify the most effective behavioral counseling methods and the optimal intensity and frequency of exercise. Similar work is needed to create an improved evidence base concerning the effects of occupational physical activity on maternal-fetal health.


Source: ACOG Committee Opinion. Dec 2015; Number 650.


What movement should I do or not do?


The answer really depends on your goals and if you have any symptoms. This is unique to every single woman and every single pregnancy and is why it is critical to have the guidance of a coach trained to help you in this stage. Here are some considerations for modifications based on each trimester of pregnancy:


Trimester Focus for Movement Consider Stopping Based on Your Goals
First Awareness for energy, adapting mindset Contact sports, high risk activities (rope climbs, competing)
Second Strategy for physical and emotional changes High impact movements

Ab-specific work

Dynamic gymnastic movements

Olympic lifting/heavy lifts

Third Prepare and adjust for postpartum Reduce weight and intensity

Reduce or eliminate overhead pressing

Adapted from “Timeline for the pregnant and postpartum athlete.” Brianna Battles.


Questions to ask yourself


There are no exact guidelines for what exercises you should do during pregnancy or should not do. What you do depends on your goals but there should also be a focus on awareness – what causes you symptoms, what has a potential risk that would outweigh the potential reward and your specific mental, physical and fitness history. The good news is that fitness is infinitely scalable and can be modified to fit your intended intensity for that specific day. Your target intensity will change throughout all the trimesters of your pregnancy, including the fourth trimester which we’ll talk about in the next article!


Do you want to work with an expert coach to navigate this part of your journey in motherhood? sign up for Moms in Motion below, starting March 31st!

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ACOG Committee Opinion. Dec 2015; Number 650.

Brianna Battles. Timeline for the pregnant and postpartum athlete. Accessed web:


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