top of page
  • Writer's pictureJen Curtis

6 Biggest Misconceptions about Pregnancy Fitness

In my work I see not only a lot of pregnant and postpartum women that have been told all kinds of nonsense about pregnancy fitness, but also a lot of professionals who teach a lot of out-dated rubbish.

So I put together some of the top misunderstanding that I see and hear about exercising throughout pregnancy.

1. You can do whatever you did before pregnancy, just listen to your body. But don't do anything new.

While well intentioned, this one gets lots of women in trouble.

Some exercises are better suited to pregnancy, and others less so.

As you probably know, I'm not a big fan of black-and-white dos and don’ts, but, there are sports and exercise modalities that are down-right dangerous during pregnancy. Scuba diving, base jumping, MMA, acrobatics – it doesn't matter which way you spin it, you just can’t do this shit during pregnancy.

But this pregnancy black list is far shorter than most people think – then comes in the dark grey area, activities that do not lend themselves well to the physiology of pregnancy. Powerlifting, running, capoeira, Pilates (yes, Pilates) many aspects of CrossFit – yet we're getting mixed messages about these kinds of activities. We're either told "if you did it before getting pregnant, it's fine to carry on, but don't start during pregnancy" or we're told that we absolutely should not do any of these activities, right from conception.

As you've probably guessed, I don't sit in either of these camps. I'm a big fan of, as Jessie Mundell puts it, "modify over omit". We don't have to cut these activities out all together, rather we can modify them to make them more appropriate for the woman in question, at whatever stage of pregnancy, allowing for individual differences and preferences.

If you are a powerlifter, you can always lower the weight (check out my video on lifting weights during pregnancy), but the movements themselves are very appropriate for pregnancy (deadlift and squat in particular). You may want to add a different exercise modality to balance out your programme and better support your pregnancy (like an aerobic exercise – check out my post on a balanced pregnancy programme) and some kind of row variation to compliment your training. But it may not be appropriate (or even possible) to continue your powerlifting programme as you were doing before.

In capoeira, you might omit certain movements as your pregnancy progresses and it becomes uncomfortable, or there is concern for your core or pelvic floor. It's important to remember that pregnancy is not static – during your first trimester, you may be able to do all the bridges and back bends that your heart desires, but once you start to show this might stretch your abdominal wall in ways that doesn't feel good (and could potentially cause damage to these tissues).

The same goes for CrossFit – the first trimester may not present too many challenges (see my blog post about physiological changes during pregnancy), but as you start to show, exercises like pullups might cause bulging in the abdominal muscles that could cause or worsen a diastasis. Heavy weights, breath-holding and bearing down might cause pelvic floor problems – but we can modify all these things.

For example: I had 10 chinups before getting pregnant. During my first trimester, this went down to 5 pretty quickly, and it was around week 16 that I became concerned that there was some bulging through my abdominal wall – so I switched to rowing variations like ring rows.

We can lower weights to better suit pregnancy – we have pretty solid guidelines for that now, all the while you can continue to do something that looks like what you did before. If you have a habit and a community, we want to change the activity as little as we can to keep you active – but enough to avoid any injury. As with most things in life, there will be a sweet-spot.

Running may present problems for the pelvic floor as it creates a lot of in