Exercise during Pregnancy Series: The First Trimester

There isn’t much guidance out there on exercise in the first trimester. The thought is often that not much modification is needed, but there are also some VERY real concerns you may have on your mind.

Like what about morning sickness? How do you navigate that?

What about miscarriage? Could you put the baby at risk by the exercises you choose?

In this blog, I’ll expand on these considerations and give you some real advice on how to approach exercise in the first trimester!

Should you push through morning sickness, fatigue, and exhaustion?

But the real question here is “should you push yourself through fatigue, exhaustion, and morning sickness?” And, honestly, I can’t answer that question for you. I think there’s a time and place for getting yourself up and out for a walk or to the gym. That can most certainly help you feel better, if only for a time. That being said, there’s also a time and a place for letting your body rest and for NOT pushing yourself to workout or maintain your regular routine.

Neither one is wrong. What is wrong is the pressure newly pregnant moms often feel to start “getting it right” right away.

If working out is still on your radar, but you’re feeling less than enthused- here are some things you can do to stay moving in a way that feels good:
● Keep the intensity low to moderate- don’t push yourself to go all out
● Get outside for a leisure walk at a slow to moderate pace- fresh air can help in many ways
● Reduce weights- decreasing your load can help with the intensity of the workout while still keeping you moving, if that’s your goal during the first trimester
● Decrease workout time- rather than forcing an hour, choose 20 minutes instead

Choosing these options right now doesn’t mean it will always be that way. You can always get back into your fitness routine when you feel up to it.

What if you’re feeling okay, will higher intensities or load put you or the baby at risk?

If you’re feeling completely fine and want to continue your routine as normal, even if that includes higher intensities or loads, it is likely fine unless of course your doctor has given you other recommendations. I’ll discuss more below regarding signs that your body may not be happy with what you’re doing, but in terms of harming yourself or the baby, as long as you aren’t doing something radical, any exercise during the first trimester that feels good to you is fine for the both of you.

In terms of miscarriage, I’ve been told by several doctors and nurses that it likely doesn’t have anything to do with what you do or don’t do. Miscarriage is an unfortunate and sad situation that happens to more people than we really think it does. Personally, I understand that concern. This was very much on my mind both times I miscarried. After my second loss, the one in which I took boxing classes, I had the concern that it was the exercise I’d done. And even though I knew that it didn’t contribute at all to my early miscarriage, it was a thought that often popped into my head.

“What if I hadn’t been doing that… would I have had a different outcome?” And I can’t completely say it didn’t impact the way I exercised during my first trimester of this pregnancy. Know that it is fine for you to continue exercising in a way that feels good and right for your body and it is also fine to honor your feelings and not exercise if that feels better for you.

What if you want to start working out? Is it safe and where do you start?

There used to be a recommendation that if you aren’t already active, pregnancy is not the time to start. Since then, those recommendations have been updated and it is totally safe for people to start exercising during pregnancy, even if you haven’t been active previously. The current recommendation is to start gradually… which is what I would recommend to anyone starting out anyway.

I mean you wouldn’t go from not exercising at all straight to running a marathon, right?

If you want to start exercising during your first trimester (we’ll cover second and third in future blogs), start slow. Start with walking or whatever feels good to your body at an intensity and routine you can manage. I’d also suggest seeking out the guidance of a pregnancy-specific training program that will help you start slowly and progress you safely through exercise during your pregnancy.

What are the signs that you need to pull back or adjust your routine?

Here are some signs that your workouts may not be serving you right now and you may need to take a step back or talk with your doctor:

● Pain- any pain may be a sign that you need to adjust your intensity, load, or the exercise itself. This can include pelvic, back, hip, or round ligament pain before, during or after exercise.
● Peeing- If you’re noticing leaking during or after your workouts, this is a sign that you need to adjust. What you’re doing or the intensity at which you’re doing it may not be jiving with the hormone levels raging through your body right now.
● Prolapse- Any feelings of bulging, heaviness, or dragging in the vagina during or after your workouts can also be a sign that you need to start adjusting those workouts earlier than you may have thought.
● Bleeding- If you begin bleeding or are spotting and notice an increase of bleeding, especially if accompanied by cramping, now is the time to give your doctor a call. Spotting and some bleeding can be perfectly normal in the first trimester, but always err on the side of caution and contact your doctor.
● Fatigue/Exhaustion- if you notice an increase in fatigue or exhaustion after your workouts, this is likely a sign that the intensity needs to be adjusted. Your workouts should always leave you feeling better afterwards, if they aren’t, it’s time to adjust.

Like I said, exercise during the first trimester is often regarded as a no big deal kinda situation but there are still some really unique and important considerations to make during this phase of pregnancy. After all, you are still growing an entire human person. This is a time where the adjustments aren’t necessarily physical, but they are there nonetheless. Let me know in the comments if these tips were helpful. I love to hear your feedback and what kind of information resonates with you.

Stay tuned for exercise recommendations for the second and third trimester coming soon!