Once you get that “plus” sign on the pregnancy test, things are bound to profoundly change. Sure, you’ll have to mentally adjust to your new life in the making, but not just yet. Mood swings, morning sickness, sore breasts, itchy nipples, more frequent urination and fatigue… The first 10 to 12 weeks of your pregnancy are full of physical changes that you’ll have a hard time to ignore; and some of these symptoms can make you want to skip your workout. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise anyway.
In fact, exercising the right way can make you feel better. So if you want to stay active and alleviate some of pregnancy’s most unpleasant symptoms, here’s how to exercise during the first trimester.
There are only a few restrictions on what you can do in your first trimester. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends to steer clear of any type of contact sports, to stick to activities that you were already doing before, and to use the BORG scale of perceived exertion instead of only paying attention to a certain heart rate. Other than that, listen to your body and consider each day as it comes and as new challenges present themselves. And as usual, don’t forget to talk to your healthcare provider about your physical activities.
1. Morning sickness
This very common early-pregnancy symptom affects most women and can be more or less intense. Before resuming your workout routine, try to find out if you tend to be nauseous or vomit at a certain time of the day or if it lingers from morning to night. If the nausea persists throughout the day, you can try to have snacks. You should time your workout around a “safe window,” when you tend to not feel nauseous. As long as you don’t get too hungry afterwards and make sure to hydrate with water throughout the day, it’s likely to make you feel better.
Feeling faint or suffering from dizzy spells can often be made worse by weather conditions, especially if you are pregnant at the height of summer. To prevent vertigo or weakness, make sure to drink 8 glasses of 8 oz of water each day and if you are active, drink even more! If your dizziness is very bad, work out in an air-conditioned space with unlimited access to water fountains. Should you still choose to work out outdoors, slow down all cardio activities, do them early in the day or later in the evening, and have water and snacks handy. If you don’t want to hold a bottle during your run, plan your route along public water fountains.
3. Extreme Fatigue
Even professional athletes will attest to the fact that the fatigue that they experience during the first 12 weeks can be harder on them than any training they’ve done before. How do you cope? The first rule of thumb is to listen to your body. If you can, take an afternoon nap and adjust your nighttime routine. Try to exercise in the morning, when you’re likely to have more energy. Keep your workouts brief and easy, so that you feel better but don’t fatigue your body even more in the process. Finally don’t exercise on an empty stomach. Snacking on a banana or a piece of toast is a great way to get a little boost before exercising.
4. Frequent urination and changes in digestion
As your body adjusts to the hormonal changes, you’ll probably need to use the restroom more often and have some indigestion. You may even be constipated, which is likely due to your prenatal vitamins. Exercising can help regulate digestion, especially if you couple it with some nutritional recommendations like prune juice. Like with the dizziness, it is probably best to stick to an indoor environment, where you’ll have access to a toilet in case you need to pee in the middle of workout. Finally, give yourself ample time to eat and digest your snacks before any activity.
Despite these uncomfortable symptoms, the silver lining is that most women feel much better and energized during the second trimester. You just need to take better care of yourself than ever before. Exercising during pregnancy can weaken an already compromised immune system, so how we approach it is very important. As long as you never exercise on an empty stomach, get plenty of sleep, drink lots of water and exercise inside, you will be fine.
Congratulations on your pregnancy. We hope that you will be active and healthy throughout. How did you overcome some of the early pregnancy symptoms in your first trimester?