Congratulations – you are pregnant, or perhaps you are thinking about becoming pregnant! For the next nine months your body won’t be your own. I can relate from both sides of the spectrum – from being pregnant and dealing with getting back into pre pregnancy shape after a 50 pound weight gain – yes 50, and also from training pre-natal and post-natal clients in Pilates and Barre sessions over the many years. You may have read a lot of valuable information already and feel prepared for what lays ahead but I don’t think that anything really prepares us for the physical, psychological and hormonal changes that take place during pregnancy. The benefits of a carefully designed exercise program with a trained professional will provide you with an appropriate workout for each stage of pregnancy that is safe and effective. For instance, you will likely come to find that after the first trimester prone facing exercises are no longer comfortable. A skilled trainer will have to provide alternative ways to work those muscles in the back of your body for the later trimesters - those postural muscles in your back will be of most importance to you as the front of the shoulders tend to become shortened and tight due to the increase weight of the breasts and then after birth, from the position the upper body assumes when cradling and feeding your baby. Here are a few bits of advice to take along and to be mindful of in each trimester. Remember that this is not the time to diet or to embark on a rigorous course of exercise that your body is not accustomed to. Be kind to yourself and recognize that you are just as special as the miracle you are carrying inside of you! First Trimester: 0-12 weeks - Make sure to get approval from your medical practitioner before continuing your exercise program. - Be mindful for decreased blood pressure changes, which can cause dizziness as well as nausea and fatigue. Avoid exercises with fast transitions. Gentle and simple movements that focus on stability, posture and balance are key. - Working out mild to moderately for only 20-30 minutes / 3-4 times a weeks is a good rule to follow if you not feeling up to par. Second Trimester: 13-26 weeks - The center of gravity is your greatest challenge so stability is still the key to the essence of your workout. Seated exercises on a stability ball using bands and light weights are a great alternative position for the later trimesters. - Please do not assume inverted or fully supine positions for any extended period of time. At this point the head and heart should always be higher than the level of the pelvis. There is vein that feeds blood supply to the fetus that can be compromised in those positions. Exercises that you did laying flat on your back can now be done on the forearms or against a base of support such as the stability ball. -Side lying exercises will be the most beneficial from now until the end of pregnancy– a pillow underneath the belly can be helpful for support. Add kneeling and standing positions to your routine as well as 4 point kneeling (on hands and knees) – this position feels great for releasing compression in the back and pelvis. - The maternal heart rate should not exceed 140 bpm. Walking up a steep flight of stairs can get you there in no time flat! Third Trimester: 27-40 weeks -Avoid compressing or trying to ‘flatten’ the abdominals as it will be uncomfortable and will likely not happen! There is enough compressing going on with the baby pressing against your organs, bladder and ribs. - Avoid excessive stretching which can cause injury or weakness in the soft tissues as joint laxity are increased due to levels of a hormone called ‘ relaxin’. -Keep the ankles mobile and focus on proper placement of the feet. Doing simple movements without shoes on will allow you to keep good circulation especially if you suffer form Edema, a swelling of the ankles that is a very common occurrence during pregnancy. In all trimesters keep your exercise area cool and comfortable and make sure you have an adequate intake of fluids. If you don’t feel well, don’t push yourself – exercising will likely not make you feel any better and please…. if anyone tells you to continue and ‘ work through the pain’…I suggest you work your way out the door! Good luck and remember to resume regular exercise post partum only after your physician has cleared you.