If you're pregnant or postpartum and nervous about exercising, let me reassure you: Working out during pregnancy and postpartum is not only safe, it’s highly encouraged. And I don’t just mean strolling around the block or taking the occasional yoga class — exercise or movement up to 5 or more times per week for 30-90 minutes can be beneficial.
Research shows that exercise during pregnancy has benefits for both mom and baby – including better oxygen and nutrient delivery to baby, shorter labor, and decreases in the risk of both non-surgical and surgical interventions during delivery.
Want to keep moving but not sure which exercises are right for you or how to stay motivated? A personal trainer can be a key part of your support team. Below are some tips on finding one you can trust.
Look for special certification
Your first criteria should be to find a trainer who has special certification in pre and postnatal fitness. Trainers with education in prenatal and postpartum fitness have a more holistic approach to training and can guide you to having a less intense labor and a more complete postpartum recovery. They understand how the body changes throughout each trimester, how to train to avoid aches and pains, as well as considerations to take for physical stress management.
There are several prenatal and postpartum fitness certifications from both large fitness institutions as well as independent organizations whose sole focus is training for this “ultimate marathon” of pregnancy.
Pregnant? Ask if They Provide Labor Training
Along with specialized training and education, the best prenatal personal trainers will offer specific exercises and routines focused on training for labor. Similar to the benefits of exercising during pregnancy, labor training reduces pregnancy aches and pains, reduces muscle cramping, and assists in the pushing stages of labor. Key elements of labor training include breathing techniques, core activation training, and endurance-based cardio.
If you're planning a vaginal birth, ask your trainer if they incorporate labor training in their workouts or what their approach to training for labor is.
The More Experience The Better
Getting a referral from friends/family, your OB, or your physical therapist can be useful when looking for a prenatal/postpartum trainer because you can speak directly to someone who has worked with them and knows their style of training.
If you are searching for a personal trainer online or via social media, here's some info to look for:
- How long they've been working with pregnant/postpartum clients
- Posts or website content about prenatal and postpartum training
- Information about pelvic floor function, labor training, and breathing
- Their story — what lead them to train prenatal/postpartum clients
- Consultations offered prior to training
Something else to look at is whether they partner with other trainers or services/companies in the prenatal and postpartum world. Your trainer can be a great bridge to helping you build your community of moms and have the ability to connect to their resources of support. Understanding why and how they teach can help you make a decision about whether they would be a good match for what you are looking for.
Training Style & INFORMATION SHARING
Related to community connections, another important consideration when looking for a prenatal and postpartum fitness trainer is how they will coordinate care if you also work with a pelvic floor PT during pregnancy or postpartum.
As a prenatal/postpartum trainer (and having had two pregnancies), I encourage all of my clients to seek a consultation, if not regular appointments, with a pelvic floor physical therapist. Their expert knowledge about your constantly changing body during this time can improve and enhance your experience throughout pregnancy and postpartum — and help you avoid musculoskeletal imbalances or lessen the impacts if you do experience pelvic pain syndromes.
Your trainer should be able to incorporate the exercises and stretches that your pelvic floor PT assigns you, and also have a clear understanding of the necessary exercise modifications (and moves to avoid) if you have pelvic floor dysfunction. For example, if you're a pregnant person experiencing pelvic girdle pain or lower back pain, your trainer can modify exercises to avoid any that include standing on one foot.
If you have any concerns, you can always ask to connect your trainer and physical therapist to ensure you'll stay strong, safe, and supported.