The Do’s and Don’ts of Pre and Post-Natal Fitness

Guest blog written by Ania Gabb.

Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do…

I’m Ania and have been working within the fitness industry for over 20 years. I have many job roles including Personal Trainer, Nutritionist, Run Coach, Pre & Post Natal specialist, fitness journalist, and also an instructor for all things fitness including Pilates, Yoga, Les Mills classes, Reformer, Strength, Boxing, Hiit etc… I’ve taught it all! 

I have a huge passion for fitness, especially running. I’m an elite runner and over the years I’ve managed to run over 30 marathons and over 200 half marathons. I’m currently pregnant myself and have been fortunate enough to be able to carry on teaching classes and running throughout.  My health and fitness have both helped me have a comfortable pregnancy so far!

Let’s Talk Prenatal Fitness

Are you still able to exercise and keep up your fitness whilst pregnant?

Absolutely! There is a huge misconception around fitness and pregnancy. There’s negativity around the subject telling pregnant women to stop exercising, when actually it’s the complete opposite.  Training throughout pregnancy is beneficial for the mum and baby. It helps increase the blood flow to the baby, reduces swelling, strengthens the back muscles and pelvic floor, increases energy, decreases risk of pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia and induced hypertension, decreases chances of complications in delivery, but most importantly helps with your mental health, helping you to feel overall less anxious.

PLEASE NOTE – Never start anything knew whilst pregnant. If you never ran before pregnancy, then don’t start when you’re pregnant. It’s safe to continue workouts that only your body is used to doing. 

What are the main things you need to consider and adapt in your fitness regime?

If you decide to continue with your regular fitness regime then make sure you buy a decent Heart Rate Monitor. It is perfectly safe to carry on, as long as you keep an eye on your Heart Rate. As your baby grows it will create a lot more pressure on your lungs and other organs. Blood flow increases, which means your Heart Rate will increase too. The aim is to keep it below 150.

Another thing is that you and your baby both need to stay hydrated. It is recommended for every hour of exercise, you’ll need to drink an extra 1 litre of fluids. 

Avoid the heat. Your baby cannot control their temperature, and with your core temperature rising you need to stay cool. Wear loose clothing when exercising and be mindful of hot gyms and hot days.

Is there any type of sport or exercise you should consider stopping when pregnant?

The main thing to remember is “DON’T BUMP THE BUMP”. This means avoiding contact sports, including boxing. Also avoid exercises/classes where there’s a chance of falling/tripping over. If you run, then try to stay off the trails and stick to flat terrain. 

Your body will produce the hormone ‘RELAXIN’ whilst pregnant and will continue whilst breast feeding. This means that your joints will feel a lot looser, and you may become hypermobile. Be careful during classes such as BodyCombat and exercises where you might be extending the arms and legs for this reason. 

There are a lot of classes that have adaptations for pregnant women, meaning you can carry on taking part in the ones that you love. Pregnancy Pilates and Pregnancy yoga are extremely beneficial to continue. Try and find a local class or contact the instructor before you attend to see if they’re qualified to offer you adaptations as you may be surprised at what they are able to offer. 

Are there any good adaptations to exercises you would recommend?

As mentioned above Pilates and Yoga do have classes for Pre and Post Natal Women. For example, Yoga you’ll be asked to avoid certain poses such as twists and also be given props to help keep you comfortable. Pilates will also adjust the core exercises to keep you and baby safe. 

Something to remember when exercising pregnant is “KEEP YOUR HEAD OVER YOUR HEART”. An example is ‘BodyPump’ where you will be asked to adjust your step to an incline when lying down. 

Can you run when you are pregnant?

YES! I still do. If you ran before then it’s safe to continue running. Your baby is safe and is not being shaken around in your belly. All you need to do is adjust your pace, keep an eye on your heart rate, stay hydrated, and avoid challenging terrain. However, please remember that everyone is different and will experience different symptoms throughout pregnancy. Some may have severe morning sickness, a weak pelvic floor, low anterior placenta, or painful joints. All of these will make running uncomfortable, so please speak to your doctor first before continuing, as they may advise you to avoid any impact. If this is the case then swap running for swimming or the x-trainer. 

A few things to remember:

If you are worried about running during your first trimester then DON’T. Only continue if you feel comfortable to do so. This is a beautiful time in your life and there’s no point worrying and creating anxiety. Don’t start running if you didn’t run before pregnancy - now is not the time to start anything new! 

If you are new to fitness are there any pregnancy friendly activities you should consider taking up to keep you in shape?

Avoid high impact classes and try swimming instead. 30 minutes swimming 3-4 times a week will be perfect. Pregnancy Pilates and Yoga will help you work your core and pelvic floor without doing anything to strenuous. 

If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your pregnancy about fitness what would it be?

Remember the benefits and do it for you. Most importantly, if the doctor says it’s ok then it’s OK. Avoid the misconceptions and negativity that others can create you know your own body the best.

Everything Post Natal Fitness

How long after birth should you wait before taking up exercise again?

Every new mama is different. Rule of thumb is 6 weeks if you had a vaginal birth or 10 weeks if you had a cesarean. However, the first thing you need to do is check with your doctor and midwife. As a Pre/Post Natal specialist I will never take on a client until I’ve had confirmation from their doctor and midwife that it’s safe for them to start. Even if you feel good please get checked out and consent. 

Are there any types of exercise / sports you should avoid in the first few months?

This all depends on the individual and what type of birth they had. Things we need to consider are whether the mother had a vaginal birth, cesarean, complications during birth, weak pelvic floor, and most importantly diastasis recti (widening of the abdominals). Even if you were an athlete right up until your labour you will still need to start back with gentle exercise. This means avoiding high impact sports, including HIIT training and weightlifting. I highly suggest contacting a Personal Trainer or Instructor who is Postnatal qualified to help you ease back into exercise gently and in the right way.

If you are worried about going straight into a class or sport, are there any workouts you can do at home to ease you back in?

YouTube is full of postpartum workouts. The safest and best way to ease back in is with postnatal pilates to help build up your core strength. If you decide to start working out at home, then begin with bodyweight exercises and resistance band workouts. These are great to gradually help you build strength without the impact. When you’re ready you can start adding in dumbbells. Also remember that your baby is perfect to use as a weight! It then becomes fun for you and your baby! 

Is there anything you need to be aware of when exercising postpartum?


After a vaginal birth you need to be aware of a few things. The first being your pelvic floor. This may feel a bit weak after giving birth, so avoid doing anything high impact until you have strengthened your core muscles. 


Firstly, make sure you’ve waited 10 weeks before you start a new exercise regime. Also check with your doctor that it’s safe for you to workout. Your abdominal muscles may feel very weak to begin with after a c-section. This will also cause back pain. Please train with a qualified pre/post natal trainer, who can advise you on the best exercises. 

Regardless of how you gave birth, check with your doctor that it’s safe for you to start. Ease yourself back in with gentle PostNatal Pilates, bodyweight exercises, and most importantly listen to your body. If you’re breastfeeding then your body will still be producing the hormone ‘relaxin’. This will continue until 6 months after you stop breastfeeding. During this time be mindful of your joints. 

Remember that you only have one body! It’s important not to rush back into strenuous exercise and take it day by day. Slow and steady is key and ease yourself back in properly. A great piece of advice is to also try and find exercise classes where you can involve your baby! This makes working out fun and a great way to bond with your child so win-win!