Pre & Postnatal

How to Listen to your Body during Pregnancy, Postpartum, and Beyond

This week I hit 19 weeks pregnant – almost halfway there!
As the bump continues to grow I’m feeling my body slow down. It’s becoming harder to breathe, move, and do all the things. Every pregnancy is so different. I’ve taken out higher impact activities and started modifying movements a lot earlier this time around. I’m totally OK with that. My husband and I actually joke that I’m about 4-5 weeks ahead of where I was last time size wise.
It’s around this stage of pregnancy that the phrase “listen to your body” starts popping in my head. I hear this phrase a ton, but it can often be confusing. And without proper context, it can be a bit generic. During my first pregnancy with Benji, “listen to your body” to me revolved around pain, feelings of soreness, being completely out of breath, or having to pee (sometimes I’d try to hold out). But, I have a completely different approach during my second pregnancy. There is so much more than the obvious symptoms that may require modification during this stage of life.

What does “Listen to your Body” mean to you?

Brianna Battles describes two scenarios / extremes where the “listen to your body” phrase could be interpreted a bit differently.
1. Sense of Fear: “Listen to your body” may make you hyper aware and sensitive. If you don’t know how to listen to your body or what you are listening for, maybe “everything” causes a sense of paranoia. Am I hurting the baby? Does this symptom mean X? Things often drift to worse case scenarios without the knowledge of HOW and WHAT to listen for.
2. Mental and Physical Toughness: This is where what Brianna describes as “Athlete Brain” comes into play. A lot of athletes (including myself) are great at “mental and physical toughness.” It’s easy to ignore and push through physical, mental, and emotional feedback because that is what we’ve been trained to do in sport. We don’t know HOW and WHAT to listen for. A bit different from above, but the same too. I remember intense round ligament pain during my pregnancy with Benji, but I often ignored it and continued.

Maintaining Fitness During Pregnancy

We are often taught that a healthy and fit pregnancy leads to a healthy baby and healthy mom. But, the healthiest we can be is performing activities that are sustainable. The key is choosing activities that feel good, build confidence, and allow our bodies to perform and function 100%. This approach is more effective than struggling to follow a strict training regime. I’ve found that being a bit flexible accommodates my body’s changing needs. Everyday is different, so I truly “go with the flow.”
Exercise during pregnancy (unless contraindicated) can offer many benefits to mom and baby, minimizing common discomforts, boosting energy, improving mood, and preparing the body for labor and the demands of motherhood. The key is making informed choices about training, and understanding what to watch, listen, and feel for during workouts.
Want to learn more about pregnancy exercise recommendations? Read ACOG’s 2020 recommendations HERE. 

What to Listen for during your Pregnancy Workouts

Listening to your body first starts with understanding WHAT to listen, watch, and feel for during your workouts/everyday life, HOW to notice/feel symptoms in your own body, and HOW to seek help and support and make informed decisions about training. As a pregnant athlete my training isn’t “normal.” It looks a bit different, which is 100% OK.

What to watch for: I love to reference the 4 P’s from Jessie Mundell. She discusses the 4 P’s in this podcast episode too.
  • Pain (anywhere in the body)

  • Pressure through your pelvic floor, perineum or vagina

  • Peeing / Leaking

  • Peaking or doming through the abdominal midline

I would also add dizziness, fatigue, and feelings of breathlessness (unable to hold a conversation). If your body is experiencing any of these symptoms, consider what your body is trying to tell you. Perhaps it’s time to rest, take a step back, and reassess training intensity, programming, and rest intervals. Although it can be tough in the moment, keep your eye on the prize: long-term health and function. Pregnancy is such a short time, and pushing through or ignoring symptoms can hinder recovery postpartum or long-term performance.

You got this mama!

Questions? Drop them below and I’d love to connect 🙂

Helpful reading:

Second Pregnancy: How I’m approaching my Training

How to Make Fitness Class Accessible for a Pregnant Client

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