If you're pregnant and have been on any social media platform for any amount of time, I bet you've seen at least one post communicating how staying fit will lead to an x,y,z outcome. "Have an all belly pregnancy when you follow my program, workout to have a fast labor, recover faster when you do these steps..."
This will normally follow with a 'I did it, you can too! Buy my program, work with me' pitch, and as a fitness professional, I'm here to call BS in the most gentle way possible.
This messaging is harmful and I'm tired of it. There are at least three things that any amount of fitness cannot guarantee for you:
A Fast Labor
If any fitness professional is guaranteeing that their program will lead you to have a faster labor, just walk away, friend. There are so many other variables to consider when it comes to the length of your labor. Is this your first, second or third birth? How is the baby positioned? Do you feel safe? Is your pelvic floor hyper active? You can be in the fittest shape of your life and still have a longer labor than you would like. My fittest pregnancy was actually my longest labor!
Little Weight Gain
Your body will gain what it needs to during pregnancy. Fitness cannot guarantee that you will gain only x amount of weight. Nutrition has a lot to do with healthy weight gain, and I would recommend reading Real Food For Pregnancy by Lily Nichols if you're interested in fueling your body well during this time.
A side note: I personally would recommend putting the scale away if your weight is a sensitive topic for you. Your body will grow and stretch and yield to accommodate the baby. You may gain 50lbs, or 20lbs. You may have upwards up 10lbs of just water weight towards the end of your pregnancy. This is okay. What would happen if you surrendered and let your body do what it needed to for your baby?
A Fast Recovery
If you workout during the entire duration of your pregnancy, it does not ensure you will have a fast recovery. What does play a factor is how your labor + delivery actually went, your genetics, your nutrition, and yes, your movement. It isn't just fitness. There are people posting on social media, bless their hearts, with their bodies on display at 2 weeks postpartum claiming an active pregnancy is to thank for the way their bodies look, and as a fitness professional, I can tell you that's just not true. It's hard to see and it can be devastating if you did all the right things and didn't have a similar outcome. It isn't your fault your body didn't 'bounce back'. You are doing wonderfully and everyone's timeline is different.
So why workout?
If being fit can't give me any of the above mentioned benefits, what can it give me? Why workout?
Workout to feel good + feel strong.
When we consistently move our bodies, we feel good. We feel strong. We prepare for the active lifestyle of motherhood by hinging, squatting, lunging, holding, etc. We decrease chances of chronic diseases, lower back pain, and chance of injury. We increase muscle function, bone density, metabolism, as well as mood, correct muscle imbalances and improve our posture. Who wouldn't want all these benefits?
Control what you can + surrender the rest.
When it comes to pregnancy, birth and postpartum there are so many uncertainties. It makes sense when people try to create formulas that lead to a known result, but that just isn't the case with life, especially birth. We are humans, messy and fragile and complicated and beautiful. Exercise and movement has amazing benefits for our bodies and will benefit you during pregnancy and postpartum.
It does increase your chances of a better recovery, but cannot guarantee it. Good movement practices will prepare you well for labor, but cannot guarantee the perfect labor + delivery. Movement has wonderful physiologic benefits, but cannot ensure you have a 'belly only' pregnancy.
So my suggestion to you is to control what you can. Move to prepare your body and strengthen your body and celebrate your body and then surrender the rest. Motherhood is all about surrender anyways, take this time to start practicing this skill. You'll be better for it.
Blanche Schuchardt is a San Antonio Birth + Fitness Professional who values strength + beauty. She had three babies in four years and desires to be the coach she never had during the motherhood transition. She currently does remote and in person coaching. You can find her at www.strongmomma.fitness - if you would like to know more. She would love to hear from you.