Pregnancy and Exercise Myths

There is so much information out there on what you should and shouldn't do during your pregnancy. So I hope this blog can give you a little comfort, confidence that you are doing the right thing by you and your baby and bust just a handful of myths that you may have heard about. 

I should stop my usual exercise regime
If you have an uncomplicated pregnancy and are comfortable when you exercise, keep your usual routine up. Exercising at a level that you are comfortable and familiar with is highly recommended for you and your baby's health as well as your mental wellbeing. Alter your exercise regime yourself or with some guidance from a health professional when you feel you need to at later stages in your pregnancy. To monitor your heart rate, use the 'talk test'. If you can't have a comfortable conversation, it means you are working too hard so try to take the intensity back a notch or have a rest. 
I should avoid strenuous exercise
If you partook in strenous exercise prior to your pregnancy, have an uncomplicated pregnancy and feel comfortable, keep up the exercise intensity. High intensity exercise has been shown to have no detriment on the growth of your baby. My tip to you though is be true to your body and rest or modify the exercise when your body is telling you to and take care with exercises that involve running, jumping, stairs and heavy weights. The pelvic floor and surrounding joints are under a large amount of stress during high intensity exercise and even more so during pregnancy when you add the extra front load on your pelvic floor and the hormones that encourage ligament and joint laxity.
I can't exercise on my back after 12 weeks
Lying on your back during exercise in the 2nd and 3rd trimester should be avoided as the weight of your growing pregnant uterus can compress a major blood vessel called the Inferior Vena Cava slowing the return of blood to your heart and reducing the blood flow to your baby. Recommendations for when to avoid lying on your back during exercise is varied in the literature and ranges from 16 to 21 weeks. I personally err on the side of caution with my clients and avoid it from 16 weeks.  This doesn't mean you lose a whole repertoire of exercises, you just need to get creative on what exercises and positions you chose with the help of equipment, bolsters or an array of pillows. 
In terms of what side to lie on when you are resting, it is the left because of where the Inferior Vena Cava vessel is positioned. I'm all about ensuring my clients are comfortable so if lying on your right is more comfortable for you, allows you to get a good amount of rest and you do not feel nauseous, dizzy or breathless in this position, then go for it. Unless of course your doctor recommends otherwise. 
I can have that extra bowl of icecream, I'm eating for two
Sorry ladies, but eating for two doesn't quite literally mean eating two adult size portions.  You may be shocked to read that no increase in caloric requirements is recommended in the first two trimesters (i.e normal caloric requirements calculated on normal weight - see doctor google). The average caloric intake in the third trimester for a woman with an uncomplicated pregnancy is around 200 extra calories (or 840 kilojoules) per day. This is equivalent to an extra piece of fruit or half a sandwich. (Whhhatttt! I hear you say and yes I am guilty of eating a family size pizza for lunch during my pregnancy). Consuming some of these extra calories before exercising is a good idea to ensure you have a little more fuel in your tank. 
During pregnancy, you and your baby need EXTRA nutrients (rather than portions), so eating healthy foods from the five main food groups is important. Foods that provide folate, iron, calcium, iodine and omega 3 is essential (Again another topic to add to the list). 
Far to often, I hear women saying that their doctor, midwife or a friend has said that they are putting far too much weight on during their pregnancy and I see their hearts sinking. Every woman and every pregnancy is different. The way the uterus and placenta sit, morning (or all day) sickness, multiple pregnancy, how much extra fluid is on board or if you have had to reduce your exercise due to injury or pain, will all impact on how you feel and how much weight you gain. Keep to this recommended calorie intake rather than focusing on the kilogram number, eat nutritious foods, exercise regularly and speak to your doctor or obstetrician if you are concerned.
Wearing a pregnancy support brace/belt makes my tummy muscles weaker
(TIP: a pregnancy belt is different to compression tights/pants) 
There are so many pros and cons to wearing a pregnancy belt that it needs an entire blog post to itself (Adding to the list right now!).
In general, yes you should be wearing a pregnancy belt if you find it is relieving symptoms of back, pelvic or sacroiliac joint (SIJ/PGP) pain. As you grow during your pregnancy, your posture and alignment changes, your body has to adjust to the shift in gravity and your core muscles (pelvic floor, deep abdominals and deep back muscles) may simply not cope with this change. This is when a belt is needed. A belt may allow you to walk more comfortably, it may allow you to complete activities more efficiently and allows you to remain physically active.
A belt however, should not be used on its own to treat symptoms. Good posture, adjusting positions to manage pain, rest, stretching and an individual exercise program should also be incorporated into your daily life to manage your symptoms. Theoretically you should be wearing a pregnancy belt when your body NEEDS that extra support, for example if it is painful to walk, during exercise or when you can't avoid painful activities like prolonged standing (cooking dinner etc). You should spend periods of time in the day without your belt on, especially when resting, walking short distances (e.g around the home) and during gentle painless activities, as this will encourage the core muscles to activate. If you rely too heavily on a support belt, then yes theoretically it may either make your abdominals weaker because your body adjusts to having that extra help or having that extra support may give you a false sense of security of what your body is truly doing during an activity and puts you at risk of injury or over doing it. 
Stay active and take care Mummas,