December 15, 2012
Crossfit & Pregnancy: The Myths and the Facts
By Lauryn Lax
January 6, 2014
Whether you’re a man or a woman, certain thoughts might come to mind when you see a pregnant woman at the box. Is she being safe? Can she harm herself or the baby? We’ve enlisted the help of Kat Grosshaupt—CrossFit Coach, Birth Doula and HypnoBirthing instructor—to help us get the facts straight on prenatal fitness.
MYTH OR FACT? “Women should scale their workouts while they are pregnant.”
The most important thing for the woman to remember is to listen to her body. Each day will be different and certain movements may begin to feel awkward or uncomfortable. The competitive nature of CrossFit can cause women to feel frustrated when their bodies are telling them to slow down. Remember: It’s only for nine months!
What modifications should be used no matter what?
Whether you’re pregnant or not, form is king. Form should never be compromised when performing a lift or during a workout. As a woman’s belly grows, it will be impossible to maintain an optimal bar path. This means there will come a time where a switch to kettlebells or dumbbells is called for. Also, pregnant women release a hormone called Relaxin which causes ligaments to be looser and can affect balance. Therefore, movements such as box jumps should be avoided after the first trimester. Double-unders, for example, should be left to each individual and how she feels on the given day.
MYTH OR FACT? “Intense workouts will harm the baby.”
Intensity is a relative term. Exercise is very beneficial to your baby. Mom and baby share everything, including hormones. If mom releases endorphins while exercising, baby will reap the benefit as well. Studies also show that moms who exercise during pregnancy have larger placentas which mean more oxygen exchange for the baby.
MYTH OR FACT? “I need to monitor my heart rate when working out during my pregnancy.”
This is also an outdated fact. It’s more important to listen to your body and take breaks as needed. Over the course of a pregnancy, a woman’s blood volume increases by as much as 50%! This is why women feel short of breath during workouts a lot sooner than they are accustomed. Every minute on the minute (EMOM) workouts are great for pregnant CrossFitters as it gives them built-in rest.
MYTH OR FACT? “My diet needs to change tremendously.”
That depends on what you were eating before you were pregnant. A Paleo or Primal diet is ideal for pregnancy as it ensures that moms are getting adequate protein, minerals and good fats. The best book I’ve read on this subject is “Beautiful Babies” by Kristen Michaelis.
MYTH OR FACT? “I just found out I’m pregnant and want to start CrossFit to start living a more active lifestyle. Is it safe for me?”
Newly pregnant women have asked me this very question. I think the functional movements we do in CrossFit are definitely beneficial for pregnant women. However, if you’ve never done it before, I recommend you find a personal trainer or coach who truly knows about the pregnant body. Have them work with you one-on-one. I design programs for women with little to no CrossFit experience as well as those with many years under their belt. Beginners can benefit greatly from some of the basic movements, but I would not recommend that a newbie jump into a CrossFit class newly pregnant!
MYTH OR FACT? “Miscarriages are more likely if you CrossFit.”
It’s hard to know what exactly causes a miscarriage. It’s also easy for women to blame themselves for something they did, something they ate, etc., when sometimes nature just has other plans for us. I know many newly pregnant moms worry about this, but I would say, again, take it easy for the first trimester. You may feel tired and nauseous or you may feel awesome. Each day is different. Use this time to move your body and release endorphins, even if it’s by walking or doing something lighter until you feel more confident jumping back into a workout.
Just tell us…Is it safe to CrossFit while pregnant?
As with any exercise, as long as you’ve been doing it for at least six months prior to pregnancy, you should be fine. The functional movements we do in CrossFit are extremely beneficial for helping women get through labor. Squatting is one of the best exercises for the pelvic floor and tends to help CrossFitting mamas have shorter pushing times.
I tend to be conservative when it comes to some of the more “controversial” topics regarding pregnancy. For example, I am adamantly opposed to going upside down while pregnant. It’s one of those instances where you will probably be OK, but what if you aren’t? Why risk it for a handstand push-up? I think it’s important to take a step back and put it all into perspective. Women must also remember not to compare themselves to anyone else. Just because your friend is doing muscle ups while pregnant doesn’t mean it will feel OK for you. Listening to your body each and every day is key.
Photographer: Nik Martinez Pictured: Virginia Trinidad