Precautions and Contraindications During Exercise

Our Responsibility as a Pre and Postnatal Pilates and Fitness Professional

As instructors, we spend more time with our clients then probably their best friends or family members. Our job is to nurture those relationships on a professional level, helping our clients to feel comfortable enough to freely and openly move their bodies to transformative places.

You are sharing in the most amazing time of their lives, their pregnancy, and they are trusting you with that time.

Below you will find the basic guidelines to exercise and pregnancy, as the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the ACOG recommends. Read more about the ACOG.

As a pre and postnatal fitness professional, you should have a basic understanding of the precautions and contraindications (when it is absolute to not exercise).

I understand this may instill some uncertainty or insecurity in working with pregnant women,

but I can assure you,

as long as you have awareness and, most importantly, an open line of communication and understanding with your clients,

you will be an amazing instructor!

Always make sure your client has cleared exercise with her doctor. 

In addition to communicating with your clients, it is recommended that you have some line of communication with your client’s doctor, health care provider, or midwife.

Dr. Clapp, the author of Exercising Through Your Pregnancy, recommends an individualized team approach among health care providers, fitness instructors, and the pregnant woman.

The following is an excerpt from the ACOG Guidelines for Exercise During Pregnancy. I have added to the list with additional information written in purple

You can see and print the entire document at:

What should I be aware of when exercising during pregnancy?

The changes in your body can make certain positions and activities risky for you and your baby. While exercising, try to avoid activities that call for jumping, jarring motions, or quick changes in direction that may strain your joints and cause injury.

There are some risks from becoming overheated during pregnancy. This may cause loss of fluids and lead to dehydration and problems during pregnancy.

When you exercise, follow these general guidelines for a safe and healthy exercise program:
  • After the first trimester of pregnancy, avoid doing any exercises on your back.

Take precaution toward the end of the 2nd trimester. This is a general rule due to the possibility of cutting off circulation of the vena cava, an artery that runs to the woman’s heart, due to the weight of the uterus. There will be symptoms like feeling short of breath and dizziness. Every woman is different. Some women are fine on their backs well into the 3rd trimester; others become uncomfortable much earlier. 

To modify exercises on the back, keep in mind that the goal is to get the uterus (pregnant belly) bellow the heart. You can do this a few different ways.

On the reformer, use a jump board. 

On the floor or trapeze table, use a slightly deflated big ball

  • If it has been some time since you have exercised, start slowly. Begin with as little as 5 minutes of exercise a day and add 5 minutes each week until you can stay active for 30 minutes a day.

In this case, begin pre-Pilates exercises such as Lateral Thoracic Breathing, Pelvic Floor Exercises, and Posture exercises. You should also begin to educate your client on what to expect during her pregnancy, and her sessions with you.

  • Avoid brisk exercise in hot, humid weather or when you have a fever.
  • Wear comfortable clothing that will help you to remain cool.
  • Wear a bra that fits well and gives lots of support to help protect your breasts.
  • Drink plenty of water to help keep you from overheating and dehydrating.

Make sure to remind your client to take a water break every 15 minutes. I set a timer so that I don’t forget to do this.

  • Make sure you consume the daily extra calories you need during pregnancy.

Unless you have a background in nutrition, steer clear of giving too much nutrition information. Find a good nutritionist in your area and develop a working relationship with them. You could then refer your clients to them, and possibly work out an affiliate deal. 

What are the warning signs that I should stop exercising?

Stop exercising and call your health care provider if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Increased shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Muscle weakness
  • Calf pain or swelling
  • Uterine contractions
  • Decreased fetal movement
  • Fluid leaking from the vagina

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