First Trimester Exercises

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Week 1 to 12

There are many benefits from introducing first trimester exercises into your everyday life if you have an uncomplicated, healthy pregnancy. Your mental wellbeing increases, the risk of back pain decreases, you get more alert and the chance of having a good experience during childbirth increases. In addition, you’ll recover a lot faster after giving birth if you have stayed active during your pregnancy. 

And it’s not only beneficial for You to stay active, but for your Baby too! Exercise increases the blood supply to the placenta which then grows faster, creating an advantageous environment for the baby.

Your first trimester exercises can prevent and treat these pregnancy related problems

  • Back pain and pelvic pain
  • Obesity
  • Stress
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Insomnia
  • Tiredness
  • Swelling and varicose veins
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Stretched and thinned muscles of the abdomen, rectus diastasis
  • Prolapse
  • Urinary leakage and stool incontinence
  • Preeclampsia

How do I adapt my first trimester exercises?

You can more or less, continue training as usual in your first trimester. The general rule is to listen to your body since all pregnancies are unique and in the end you know your body best. 

Focus on posture exercises during your first trimester

Your growing belly will eventually shift your body’s center of gravity. This often results in a poor posture, back pain and pelvic girdle pain. A strong core will help you withstand many of the side-effects by maintaining good posture and keeping your belly tight. 

A good posture is often referred to as an athletic posture. To achieve this posture you should include exercises for the inner abdominals, lower back muscles, glutes, hamstrings, lats, lower traps and rear delts in your first trimester exercises. All of these muscles are responsible for your posture hence will help you escape a lot of pregnancy related discomforts. 

I will give you a few exercise recommendations to build a strong and beneficial posture. Do the following exercises to strengthen above mentioned muscles:

First trimester exercises wall sliders
  1. Wall slides
    1. Stand against a wall and make sure that your lower back, shoulders and the back of your neck have contact with the wall.
    2. Bring your arms up while pressing your shoulder blades against the wall. The backs of your hands should be against the wall with your thumbs at about the height of your head. The line of your upper arm should be perpendicular to the floor.
    3. Keep your shoulders lowered and straighten your elbows until your arms are extended straight up over your head. You might not succeed to fully straighten them. Go as far as you can while keeping your arms against the wall.
    4. Hold this position for 5 seconds.
    5. Slowly return to the starting position and start over. Repeat 10 times, 3 sets.
prone cobra
  1. Prone Cobra 
    1. Lie on your stomach with your arms along your sides.
    2. With thumbs pointing toward the ceiling, raise your arms back and up while simultaneously doing a back raise.
    3. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and bring your shoulders down (the opposite of pulling your shoulders up toward your ears).
    4. The neck should be an extension of your back, hence in a neutral position.
    5. Hold this position for about 5-10 seconds
    6. Then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times, 3 sets.
Thoracic rotations
  1. Thoracic rotations
    1. Get into a quadruped position with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Keep your spine in a neutral position. 
    2. Place one hand on the back of your neck. Do not pull down your neck with hand, just place it there softly.
    3. Begin to rotate, leading with your eyes, head and shoulder, until you look under the armpit of the extended arm placed on the floor.
    4. Reverse the motion, leading with the eyes, head and shoulder, rotating upwards as far as possible. 
    5. Keep the lumbar, thoracic and cervical aligned during rotation. 
    6. Bring the hand back to the starting position, returning to the full quadruped position.
    7. Repeat the movement on the other side. That’s one repetition.
    8. Do 5-10 repetitions and 3 sets. 
single leg hip raise
  1. Single leg hip-raise
    1. Lie on your back with one leg bent 90 degrees, with the foot placed on the floor.
    2. Straighten the other leg and lift it toward the ceiling.
    3. Spread your arms wide along your sides, making sure you lie in a stable position.
    4. Lift your hips toward the ceiling. Your body should form a straight line from knees to shoulders. 
    5. Make sure that your right side of the hip is parallel to your left side. 
    6. Hold this position for two seconds, then return to the starting position.
    7. Change legs after 5-10 repetitions. Repeat for 3-5 sets.
Deadlift first trimester exercises
  1. Deadlift
    1. Stand close to the bar so it is positioned approximately above the center of the foot.
    2. Stand hip wide apart with your feet.
    3. Bend down and grip the bar with shoulder width between your hands, either with an upper hand grip or a mixed grip.
    4. Inhale, tighten your core, and lift the bar by straightening your knees and hips. Pull the bar near your body.
    5. The lift is completed when you stand upright, with straightened knees and hips.
    6. Reverse the motion and put the bar down in a controlled manner.
    7. Repeat 10-15 times, 5 sets.

Be realistic with your goals

Now that you are pregnant, your body works 30% harder, craves more oxygen and have a higher resting heart rate. This combined with morning sickness and overall tiredness may want you to set realistic goals so you don’t end up disappointed. Exercising should be fun and fulfilling! Hence the goal with your first trimester exercises should be adapted to benefit your pregnancy and future childbirth. The first trimester is a time for maintaining your strength and fitness to the best of your ability, advicely not a time for setting new personal bests.

Risk of misscarriage 

If you have an uncomplicated pregnancy and are healthy, exercising with reasonable intensity is not dangerous for you nor your baby. If you don’t feel well during this period though, it may be wise to slow down.

Three things to avoid during your first trimester

  • Martial arts – all sports where there might be a blow to the body should be avoided.
  • Maximum heart rate – pregnant women are recommended to stay below 70% of their maximum heart rate. If you are not sure how much yours is, then work out at a pace that feels good to you without pushing it to the limit.
  • Hot spaces – Avoid workouts performed in heat rooms, Hot MOJO, Hot FLX and HotVinyasa Flow are some examples. The same goes for sauna and workouts in warm, poorly ventilated gyms. A good idea is to always carry water with you during your workout.

A few words about abdominal training during the first trimester

Many believe you should quit exercising your abs as soon as you know your pregnant. Note that you can exercise as usual, including planks and sit-ups, in your first trimester. But stop doing planks and sit-ups (exercises for abdominis rectus, “the 6-pack”) at about week 16 as the uterus starts to get bigger and your abdominal separation starts to show. You can, and should, continue exercising your inner abdominals during all trimesters.

What signs to look for that tells you to slow down:

If you experience any of these symptoms, rest! 

  • Excessive fatigue. A good workout will probably leave you feeling a bit tired but you shouldn’t feel fatigue in your everyday life long after exercising. 
  • Irritability. If your workouts are leaving you feeling more short-tempered than usual, it might be a sign that it’s time to slow down.
  • Joint or muscle pain. Muscle soreness is common after exercising, especially if you are doing new movements. However, if you would feel acute pain in the joints and muscles every time you work out, you might need to take a step back. 
  • Trouble sleeping. Normally exercise makes you sleep better. But if you are exercising too hard you might get trouble sleeping. If you experience this, please rest and/or exercise with a lower intensity.

If you experience any of these symptoms, stop exercising right away and give your practitioner a call:

  • Very rapid heartbeat
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Unusual pain anywhere (hips, back, pelvis, chest, head and so on)
  • Severe breathlessness
  • Regular, painful uterine contractions
  • A cramp or stitch that doesn’t go away when you stop exercising
  • Chest pain
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Calf pain or swelling
  • Difficulty walking
  • Loss of muscle control
  • Increased swelling
  • Amniotic fluid leakage
  • Sudden headache

When you shouldn’t exercise at all during pregnancy

Exercise during pregnancy increases the wellbeing for almost all pregnant mothers and their babies. However certain conditions can make exercise during pregnancy risky. Talk to your doctor about whether you should avoid exercise if you have:

  • Preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
  • Chronic lung or heart conditions
  • Placenta previa after 26 weeks of pregnancy
  • Severe anemia during pregnancy
  • Cervical insufficiency or cerclage
  • Risk factors for premature labor and are pregnant with multiples
  • Preterm rupture of placenta membranes during this pregnancy

Always get an all clear from your doctor before beginning any workout routine during pregnancy.

Note: Always consult your doctor or midwife before starting a new exercise routine. Restless Mama wishes you a healthy and active pregnancy, lot’s of Love from Us!

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