When high risk pregnancy puts the brakes on your life as you know it, including your workout routine, it can be a time of mixed emotions. So much changes so fast.
Fortunately, you are not alone and you may be able to still move your body. Here’s my story.
In 2012 at 15 weeks pregnant with my daughter, I learned that I needed an emergency procedure called a cerclage to keep my cervix from continuing to funnel open. If it wasn’t corrected quickly, I was going to lose my baby.
At the time I was teaching several fitness classes a week. I honestly didn’t understand the severity of my predicament. “Can I still sub my yoga class tonight if I just sit and talk my class through it?” I asked.
My perinatologist replied, “No, you are done. You are going to go home and lie down and come back tomorrow for the procedure. You are done teaching fitness until after your pregnancy.”
Whoa! Reality check.
Of course, my number one priority was my baby, so I called up all of the places where I taught fitness and let them know that I was on medical leave effective immediately.
I am extremely thankful to have had a perinatologist who discovered the issue in time to save my baby. I was on strict or modified bed rest for most of my pregnancy and my daughter was born at full-term.
You Are Not Alone
But I’m not going to lie. Going from being super active to bed rest was a rough transition. And if you are going through this right now, know that you are not alone. It is OK to mourn your active life even while you are thankful for modern medicine and the chance to save your baby. I was a wreck because I felt guilty for missing my workouts. It also felt so selfish. But being put on bed rest or being told to severely modify your activities means a loss in independence. I realize now that we don’t have to feel guilty for our mixed emotions. It is pregnancy after all. You are allowed to be emotional. 🙂
Now I am 29 weeks pregnant with our second daughter and have a cerclage again. But this time, rather than an emergency cerclage, I received a preventive cerclage at 13 weeks, which means that I can walk around, work at my desk and engage in most of my normal routine. I still can’t walk up and down stairs very often and am prohibited from cardio exercise. I am also not supposed to lift anything over about 10 pounds, including my 3-year-old daughter. It’s a very different experience, but what is the same is that I am no longer allowed to workout.
For most women with high risk pregnancies, especially those of us with a cerclage or preeclampsia, any movement that will tighten our core or put excess stress on our uterus or cervix is a problem and a big no-no.
In 2012 I was itching to move because I went from being highly active to not active at all. I asked my doctor if I could try a video I found online called Bedrest Fitness. After I described its use of resistance bands to strengthen arms and legs when you are in a reclined or lying down position, she agreed. Of course, if you are on bed rest or told not to exercise during pregnancy, it is important to ask your doctor if any exercise, including bedrest fitness, is right for you.
Most of all, I have learned patience through this process. Right now, at 29 weeks pregnant, I can still engage in my daily activities, but I have no idea for how much longer. At any Dr. appointment I may learn that the stress on my cervix is too much, and back on bed rest I go. I’ve accepted this fact and have learned that I need to go with the flow. I also just finished this inspiring book, which is a great read for any Mama on bed rest.
Through my 2 pregnancy experiences so far, I have let go of my workout expectations for the good of my baby’s health. And with some research, I was eventually able to find a very modified form of exercise that was approved in my particular case.
I also continue to meditate in a modified position. It helps relieve my pregnancy anxiety. I recently started meditating again after a long hiatus, and every time I come back to it, I wonder why I ever stopped in the first place.
And so I continue to use resistance bands to workout, but rather than tightening the core, I breathe so I relax the core as I work my arms, legs and upper back. It’s the opposite of everything I learned as a fitness instructor, and it works beautifully in my particular situation.
So for all of you Mamas out there with high risk pregnancies, know that your restrictions may feel like forever now, but keep learning what you can do to stay fit. Even if your physician says all you can do is roll from one side to another, meditation and positive visualization will get you through.
Update September 2017: This month I launched a new website, Surviving Bedrest, as a place for women with high-risk pregnancies to share their journeys and help other women who come after them. It also includes resources curated by mamas for mamas. The site is still in development, but if you would like to share your experience with others, please let me know (and you don’t even have to be a writer, we can help you with that).