For several months during the past year I regularly created “Friday Photoshare” posts that looked at a recent photo, frequently a self-portrait, and a bit of the motivation, inspiration, or process behind the image. For several different reasons, I stopped these regular posts this spring. I’ve had several recent requests to bring the post series back and/or share some current photos of myself, so I decided to bring the theme back for today! I honestly haven’t taken any photos of myself in several months so I didn’t have anything to share until after our gym maternity photoshoot Columbus Day. I hope folks enjoy the photos!
Yes, you read that correctly – we did a gym maternity photoshoot. We attend a very pregnancy and family-friendly gym. The coach I work with most often is a physical therapist, mom of two, and has years of experiencing working with pregnant clients. I remained active, scaling and modifying weights and moments as needed, from the very beginning of my pregnancy until the very end! Our Little Gnome, or LG as she will be known here on the blog, was born on Friday, October 27 and my last true workout was that Monday. On Wednesday I did the warmup with the class but then stretched and did mobility for the rest of the hour because I really felt like our birthing time was near and wanted to avoid tiring myself out.
Thankfully, exercise during pregnancy is becoming more mainstream and accepted, but it’s shocking and saddening to me how much misinformation is still out there. I have seen too many really horrible comments on social media posts featuring pregnant women exercising accusing them of being selfish and irresponsible. I’ve seen women criticized for swimming by people claiming holding your breath momentarily is damaging to the fetus. I’ve seen people still insisting that raising your arms above your head is going to cause a cord entanglement (??? It’s 2017, how is this rumor still around?).
It’s heartbreaking to me to think of all the women who’ve been shamed or misinformed into discontinuing physical activity while pregnant because, for the vast majority of women/women without specific contraindications, a sedentary lifestyle, not an active one, is the true hazard to health and pregnancy. How many women have ended up with complications that could have been prevented if they hadn’t felt pressured into stoping physical activity? How many women have suffered complications because they felt like it wasn’t ‘okay’ to start being more physically active during pregnancy? Contrary to the old opinion that ‘it’s okay to keep exercising if you were before but you shouldn’t start anything new,’ the latest guidelines state that pregnancy is a fantastic time to make changes:
“Pregnancy should not be looked at as a state of confinement. In fact, it is an ideal time for lifestyle modification. That is because more than any other time in her life, a pregnant woman has the most available access to medical care and supervision.” Dr. Ron Artal, main author of ACOG’s recommendation on physical activity and exercise during pregnancy.
Exercise during pregnancy is associated with a wide variety of positive outcomes including lower instances of gestational diabetes, lower c-section rates, shorter labor times, and better fetal toleration of labor, to name just a few. (Our little girl was an absolutely champion and never had even a moment where her heart rate was anything other than spot on during our birthing time. I’m positive my active lifestyle helped!) The benefits are so great that Dr. Vincenzo Berghella, professor of maternal-fetal medicine and author of a 2017 piece in AJOG on exercise in pregnancy stated:
“There is no intervention that we as providers can recommend to pregnant women as impressive in its significant impact on so many maternal and perinatal outcomes.”
I’ve had some people say I’m ‘lucky’ to be able to stay active, but I think luck only has a small part to play. Yes, I am lucky to have avoided counter indicated complications like placental previa, but I firmly believe my decision to eat wholesome foods and stay active has become a self-renewing cycle. There have been many days when I was tired and didn’t really feel like going to the gym, but I just reminded myself that even just walking to the gym is better for me than sitting at home. I reminded myself of the benefits and give accept and celebrate whatever I’m capable of doing on that particular day. I will be the first person to admit that working out while you’re pregnant feels like a whole heck of a lot of work, but I’m always glad that I did a workout. Exercise out frequently helped me feel more awake when I was fatigued and actually helped with me random pregnancy discomforts. Whenever I decided to skip the gym or eat something junky, I really felt the (unpleasant) difference the following day.
I paid attention to my body every day and took one day at a time. If something didn’t feel ‘right’ about a movement, I did something different; I parked myself in front of the fan the entire time I’m at the gym (sorry, everyone else! I’ll be relinquishing my fan hog status once I return to the gym and you have a break from me for now, anyway); and I took extra time for warming up and cooling down. Strangely, I’d cut back on walking over the past couple of months because it’s caused me far more discomfort than going to the gym! This deadlift weight, the most I really felt comfortable with the day we took photos, is less than half my ‘one rep max’ from last year and that’s completely okay.
I haven’t done a pull up in months because they started giving me ligament and pelvic pain. I did ring rows, instead.
Sometimes even the smallest accomplishments felt like major victories. I totally gave myself a mental gold star whenever I checked the mail because we live on the third floor with no elevator!
No matter what I did on any given day, I accepted myself and my accomplishments. I reminded myself it is literally the best I have ever done whatever the activity is at XX weeks and Y days pregnant. It doesn’t matter what I did last week or last year – I knew each day was the best for that day and that’s enough. I plan to continue this attitude postpartum once I make my return to the gym.
That’s a very long post for a few photos, but I feel strongly about being active during pregnancy! I really hope that someone reading this post is inspired to stick up for themselves, do their own research rather than listening to any random naysayers, discuss their situation with their provider, and stay active during pregnancy or can help encourage a woman who wants to exercise while pregnant.
PS – For a lot of evidence-based information on the effects of exercise on pregnancy, I encourage you to check out the book Exercise Through your Pregnancy.