The Sweat Trainers Share Their Top Pregnancy Tips
Whether you’re currently pregnant, trying for a baby, or hoping to have children one day, pregnancy can be a magical but daunting time of life.
Several of the Sweat Trainers are mothers themselves and have each had different experiences from bump through to birth. Here, we share some of their top tips to help you prioritise your wellbeing when you’re expecting.
Move your body in a way that’s right for YOU
Every woman and every pregnancy is different, so all Sweat Trainers wholeheartedly agree on this - there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to movement during pregnancy.
During Kayla’s first pregnancy with her daughter Arna, she spent a lot of time resting due to morning sickness, reflux and sciatic nerve pain. Some of Chontel’s first pregnancies (she’s now a mother of five!) felt great and she was able to stay very active, as did Cass!
Chontel’s later pregnancies with Paris and her twins were far more challenging and she was on strict bed rest with the twins as it was a high-risk pregnancy, while Kayla’s second pregnancy is feeling much better than her first. It’s not just every woman that’s different, it’s every pregnancy!
“I want to show women that an active pregnancy is ok, but you also need to listen to your unique body,” says Kayla.
Only you know what your body and pregnancy feels like, so it’s important to make choices that feel right for you, once you’ve received clearance from your healthcare professional.
“What you need to do is focus on caring for yourself and your health and your baby,” says Kelsey.
For some women, that might mean following a pregnancy-specific exercise program, for others it might be daily walks and gentle stretches, and for some it might be more appropriate to rest. Speak to your healthcare professional and feel empowered to move your body in the best way for you.
Be prepared for your body to change
This doesn’t just mean your growing baby bump or any changes to your weight. The Sweat Trainers all experienced a range of different bodily changes during their pregnancies, some of which were quite challenging.
Kayla’s symptoms left her feeling tired and low, and Chontel’s recent pregnancy with her twins was also tough, both physically and emotionally.
She experienced rib pain, headaches, nose bleeds, pelvic girdle pain, varicose veins and fluid retention. Cass noticed tiredness, pigmentation on her belly and nose bleeds.
Focus on the health of your baby
Seeing your body or fitness change so quickly can be challenging for some women and might feel like a setback if you had been making consistent progress on your health and fitness goals. This is a time to reset your approach to fitness, and the Sweat Trainers believe it’s so important to focus on the health of your baby and remember how amazing your body is for everything it is doing.
“You have to learn how to take just as much pride in your rest during the times where you’re unable to train, as you typically would when you’re killing it in your training,” says Kelsey.
“Both things are being done in an effort to do what is best for your body and your health and in the case of pregnancy, your baby too. You just need to remind yourself of that core motive and if that motive is not there, focus on getting there. Focus on doing everything out of respect for your body on a base level, and then hopefully out of love, gratitude and celebration of your body after that. And most certainly during pregnancy, focusing on the miracle of what your body is doing every day to create a human being.”
Cass agrees with this, too. “Focus on creating a healthy environment for your baby to grow in. Whatever your body looks like, it is what it is!” she says. “I would be lying if I said I didn’t have my moments, but I tried to remind myself it’s all about the health of my baby and how amazing the female body is.”
“Having children is my greatest achievement,” says Chontel. “It switched my focus from the outside to the inside. My children are gifts, and they remind me of what's important. Never forget that our bodies are more than just a number. We are more than a thigh gap, abs and personal bests. There are more valuable reasons why we deserve the effort to look after our health.”
If you’re working out, be ready to make adjustments
As your body changes and your bump grows, workout modifications can come in handy. Cass says this could be substitutes for the exercises themselves, or changing the intensity, weight and volume of your training. Always listen to your body, get clearance from your healthcare professional before exercising, and take rest days whenever you need.
It’s a good idea to avoid a lot of jumping and bouncing, movements that increase your fall risk, anything that puts a lot of pressure on your pelvic floor muscles, exercises that involve lying on your back (especially during the later stages of pregnancy), and traditional sit-ups or crunches.
Kayla recently shared some of her favourite modifications which she is using during her current pregnancy!
- Burpees. During the first trimester, step back one foot at a time, rather than jumping both feet back at once. At the end of the burpee, remove the jump into the air and raise onto your toes. During the second and third trimester, place your hands on a chair rather than the floor and step your feet back one at a time.
- Jump lunges. Remove the jump and perform reverse lunges with a double pulse at the bottom. You can either use your bodyweight or hold a dumbbell in each hand. If you’re losing your balance, have a chair next to you to hold onto for support.
- Bent leg jack knives. During pregnancy you’ll want to avoid ab crunch exercises, so as an alternative you could try a side plank with one knee on the ground and the top leg extended straight.
- Push-ups. Performing push-ups can become really challenging when your baby bump starts to get in the way! An easy solution is an incline push-up with your hands placed on a bench or the seat of a chair. This will give your belly more room.
- Ball slams. With many medicine ball exercises like ball slams, your bump can get in the way of easily lifting the ball off the ground, up into the air and throwing it back onto the ground. Instead, try a squat curl press. Squat with a dumbbell in each hand, curl them to your shoulders as you stand, then press them into the air.
Kayla also recommends buying an exercise ball. “I don’t often use these in my everyday training, but I know as soon as my belly starts to get really heavy I’ll be sitting my butt down as MUCH as possible. Using an exercise ball during your workouts is not only amazing for your balance, but engages your core, too!”
Seek support from people who understand
Kayla’s first pregnancy was tougher than she expected and she found it quite an isolating experience. In hindsight, she says it’s so important to connect with people who understand what you’re going through.
“You’re not alone, but you do need to speak to people and surround yourself with people who are in the same position as you,” she says. This could be your mum, sister, auntie, or other friends who have been through pregnancy. Let them know how you’re feeling and what you need.
Knowing who you can turn to for support can make the world of difference on any days when you’re feeling low or lonely.
Keep snacks handy
During pregnancy, hunger and cravings can strike at any time and it’s normal to feel more hungry than usual given the amazing work your body is doing!
Make sure you have some high-energy, nourishing snacks in your pantry and keep some in your bag or car for when you might need a quick bite to eat. If nighttime nausea or a growling stomach is messing with your sleep, having a light snack on your bedside table may also help.
Be flexible with food
How you eat when you’re expecting may stay roughly the same, but for some people it can change quite dramatically. You might experience a stronger appetite, strange cravings, or struggle to eat due to nausea or morning sickness.
Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet, eat when you’re hungry and don’t deprive yourself. If you’ve been following a strict nutrition plan to support your fitness goals, this is a good time to relax and listen to your body’s cues.
Likewise, if you’re struggling with nausea or morning sickness like Kayla did, eating bland foods (or whatever you can stomach), or high-water content foods can help.
Sleep is your best friend
Feeling fatigued during pregnancy might be common, but that doesn’t make it less challenging and exhausting, especially if you have other children to look after, are working, or struggling with morning sickness. Even the simplest of tasks can leave you feeling worn out!
Your body is going through significant hormonal and metabolic changes, as well as a huge increase in blood volume and supporting the healthy development of your baby - this all takes a lot of energy.
Our trainers recommend doing your best to get good quality sleep each night, or taking naps during the day if you need to (provided this is possible with your schedule). On the days when Cass felt particularly tired, she would prioritise a longer sleep-in, and getting into a good routine helped her body know when it was time to wind down.
If you’re feeling up to it, exercise can help your energy in more ways than one! According to Cleveland Clinic, those feel-good endorphins can boost your sense of well-being and reduce stress while experts at John Hopkins Medicine have pointed to evidence that suggests regular exercise can also help you fall asleep more quickly.
Consider getting a pregnancy pillow
Struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep? Chontel experienced a lot of broken sleep during her pregnancies, so you’re not alone! One of Kayla’s sleep tips is to try a pregnancy pillow. This can help provide extra cushioning for any aching body parts and make sleeping positions more comfortable.
If you used to sleep on your back before you fell pregnant, a pregnancy pillow is also a great way to encourage side sleeping and stop you from falling on your back when you’re asleep.
Be mindful of caffeine
For reasons such as nausea, discomfort, aches, a busy mind or needing to go to the toilet often, sleep isn’t always easy during pregnancy, so it pays to be mindful of how caffeine affects you and your sleep patterns.
Cleveland Clinic says the recommended daily caffeine limit for pregnant women is 200 milligrams each day, as it can take longer for your body to metabolise caffeine during pregnancy. According to research from the National Institutes of Health, too much caffeine can increase the risk of low birth weight or other health conditions later in life. 200mg is about two cups of coffee. Cass, for example, reduced her coffee intake to one weak coffee per day to get her through those long days at work.
Dehydration can be a big contributor to fatigue during pregnancy, as well as cramps, digestion issues and many other bodily functions. Your risk of becoming dehydrated is even higher if you’re experiencing morning sickness, so try to carry a water bottle with you, drink lots of water throughout the day, and eat foods with high water content like fruit and vegetables. Staying hydrated can also promote skin health and reduce stretch marks (Cass used oils on her belly and hips for this, too!).
Use compression tights for circulation issues
This is something Cass did near the end of her first pregnancy, alongside regular walks. “It can be really helpful if you’re having circulation issues which I had from where my baby was sitting,” she says. At your regular checkups, your healthcare professional will be able to advise you about any circulation issues to be aware of or if this could help.
Write things down
Brain fog and memory issues are quite common during pregnancy. Chontel said once her “baby brain” kicked in, she was feeling foggy and forgetting things often, so having a notebook or a list on your phone can be really helpful. Whenever something springs to mind that you want to remember, jot it down.
Kayla says that pregnancy can also be a time where your brain is going a million miles an hour thinking of all the things you need to do before your baby arrives. Keeping a list in your bag, by your bed, or on your phone can help you to relax by getting those thoughts out of your head.
Prioritise your mental and emotional health
Whenever you can during your pregnancy journey, find some moments of stillness. It can sometimes feel quite overwhelming in terms of the changes your body is going through, how you feel emotionally, or trying to prepare for what’s ahead, and practicing things like meditation, mindfulness and self-care can have a positive effect on your wellbeing.
“Relaxing helps us to have a calmer and clearer mind which aids positive thinking, concentration, memory and decision making. Relaxation slows our heart rate, reduces our blood pressure and relieves tension,” says Chontel.
If you’re feeling particularly anxious or are struggling with your mental health during your pregnancy, you’re not alone. According to Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA), an organisation which supports the mental health of parents and families during pregnancy and early parenthood, one in five expecting or new mums experience mental health issues. If you’re struggling, please reach out to a trusted healthcare provider for help and assistance.
Support at every step
Pregnancy is an incredibly unique time in a woman’s life, and sharing our experiences with one another can help make the journey easier. To all of the expecting mothers in the Sweat Community or those trying for a baby, we wish you all the best and are here to support you every step of the way!
This article is for informational purposes only. Any instruction, information, or guidance contained in this article is not a substitute for medical advice, consultation, and/or medical treatment from your doctor or healthcare provider. Do not delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of any instruction, information or guidance contained in this article.
You are responsible for your own safety and are participating in this fitness activity at your own risk. Start slowly and do not exceed the exercise recommended by your physician or health care provider. If you experience faintness, dizziness, pain, discomfort, bleeding, or shortness of breath at any time while exercising, stop immediately and seek medical advice.
* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.