A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood
Lifestyle

Pregnancy Hormones and Exercise

Print Friendly and PDF

Repeat after me – “you are not your hormones!” When you feel like crying because you’re overwhelmingly happy or you feel so angry you start laughing, consider it normal and completely out of your control. For every woman, the symptoms are different. But the massive shift in hormones is very real during pregnancy, and it does not only mess with your mood but can affect how your body feels. Importantly, the rising levels of several hormones affect how you workout and what is safe for you and your baby.

Understanding pregnancy hormones and how they will affect your body can help you prepare and counter the physical and physiological changes that you will experience. Here’s what you should know about your pregnancy hormones and how you should adapt your workouts to help with the pain and discomfort they may cause you.

1. RELAXIN

Relaxin is a pregnancy hormone that is produced by the placenta and that can do a number on your workouts. This hormone often surges when the baby has a growth spurt and your body adapts to the ever-growing fetus. Its goal is to soften the cervix and tissues of the birth canal in preparation for childbirth. But the muscle laxity that comes with relaxin is not localized to the birth canal. It softens ligaments and tissue throughout the entire body, which can result in widespread joint instability and pain. With a relaxin surge, the pelvis can also become hypermobile and can cause pain in the sacro-iliac (SI) joints, on each side of your sacrum, and in the pubic bone. Pubic bone pain, also known as Pubic Symphysis Dysfunction, can feel like a pulling or tugging inside the vagina or sensitivity and can be triggered by just walking or putting on your shoes.

Workout tips:

Stop all single leg, unilateral exercises. Since the pelvis is so mobile during pregnancy, working one side of the body can aggravate the instability of the joints, causing more pain and discomfort. Instead, work both sides of your body at the same time, like swatting and bridging variations.

Strengthen through stability. Deep core exercises and strengthening the deep external rotators of the hip isometrically will help stabilize the pelvis and lower pain. Hug your Baby and Squat holds are great moves to try out.

Avoid inner thigh strengthening. Many of the inner thigh muscles are attached to the pubic symphysis and can pull on the joint when engaged. So if you are experiencing pubic bone pain, work the muscles of the outer-hip instead to help stabilize the joint. Try wrapping a theraband around your thighs and do some bridges. The outward isometric hold can help relieve pain by balancing the two sides of the pelvis while also strengthening the muscles of the outer hip.

Stretch the deep muscles of the buttock. Muscles that attach to the sacrum can become extremely tight during pregnancy as your pelvis widens to accommodate your growing bub. Using the foam roller or your IT Bands when stretching can help relieve pain of the SI joints. But even though it feels good, be mindful and don’t go too far. It’s easy to harm the joint capsule.

2. ESTROGEN

Your ovaries usually produce estrogen, but during pregnancy your placenta takes over. Estrogen is vital in the early stage as it strengthens and prepares the womb for implantation of the fertilized egg. Later on, its presence prepares the breasts for breastfeeding by enlarging the nipples and encouraging the development of milk glands. Throughout your pregnancy, it regulates the development of the fetus and maintains the endometrium.

Workout tips:

Strengthen the postural muscles of the mid and low back. During pregnancy, the extra weight of your growing breast can cause a rounding of the upper spine, resulting in pain and discomfort. So you need to strengthen the postural muscles of the deep core, mid and lower back. Target the muscles of the rotator cuff, triceps, mid & low traps, shoulder blade stabilizers and the deep core.

Stretch the muscles of the chest and promote spinal mobility. The weight of the breasts can also cause the muscles of the chest to get very tight and the spine to get stiff. Help relieve the pain by stretching your pec muscles; and be sure to do controlled rotation and spinal extension throughout your pregnancy.

3. PROGESTERONE

High levels of progesterone during pregnancy has many wonderful functions. Early on, the hormone is responsible for the thickening of the uterine lining in anticipation of implantation of a fertilized egg. It also relaxes the smooth muscle of the uterus to prevent muscle contractions that could otherwise trigger miscarriage. Progesterone inhibits the production of monoamine oxidase (MAO) in the brain, an enzyme that is associated with depression, which is why you may feel euphoric during pregnancy. Immediately after childbirth, the progesterone levels plummet, which throws off the MAO balance and can result in what we know as “the baby blues.” Finally, progesterone increases body temperature, helps in the production of breast milk, dilates blood vessels and relaxes muscle in the bladder, bowel and veins so that they are more flexible.

Workout tips:

Forearm and wrist stretching. Many pregnant women complain of carpal tunnel syndrome, which is associated with high levels of progesterone and water retention. If you are one of them, stretch wrist and forearm to help relieve any pain and swelling you may be experiencing.

Take caution when working on all fours. Being on all fours can put more pressure on your wrists, which can cause more swelling and pain. To avoid any problem, make a fist with your hand instead of a flat palm, or roll-up a small towel to provide additional wrist support.

Don’t overheat. You are running hot during pregnancy, so make sure to stay cool. Remember to always listen to your body. Drink water, and if you don’t feel well during a workout or a class, take a break.

4. HUMAN CHORIONIC GONADOTROPIN (HcG)

HcG is the most hated of the prenatal hormones: it makes us sick! Of course, morning sickness doesn't affect every pregnant women in the same way. Some women will be nauseous all day or all pregnancy, others not at all. But high HCG hormone levels during the first trimester is believed to contribute to the nausea and vomiting. This hormone is only produced during pregnancy - first by the ovaries and later by the placenta.

Workout Tips:

Stretch and de-stress: Nausea may deter you from working out, but exercising can actually make you feel better. Gentle yoga stretches can calm digestion and relieve any anxiety that comes with morning sickness. Favor stretching positions that keeps your head above the heart. So avoiding the downward dog, for example, is probably a good idea if you are feeling sick.

Go for a walk. Moving and getting some fresh air may be all you need to make the squeaky stomach go away. Whatever you are doing, avoid overheating, as it can contribute to your nauseas. Having a little snack before and staying hydrated while you are active is a must.

Ali Handley is a New York based Pilates instructor, mother of two young children, and the founder of BodyLove Pilates, a dedicated online studio with 200+ video workouts for pregnant and postnatal women to ensure they work out smarter, safer and more effectively during this important time in their lives.

The very best of Motherly — delivered when you need it most.

Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.

Coverage:

A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

You might also like:

News

[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

You might also like:

News

[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

You might also like:

Life
Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.