Tips on how to Move and Eat during Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a wonderful and life transforming experience, but it may also be full of worry. There is no way to predict what might happen to the body during pregnancy, but there are general rules for each trimester for safe care of your body and the baby during the nine month period. If you are concerned, it is always recommended to speak to your healthcare provider to check any specific conditions that could arise.

Changes during Pregnancy?

Overall changes

It is helpful to approach pregnancy as a time to prepare for the physical demands of labour and having a child. Through our experience of supporting many women through this process we recommend the following for movement:

1.     Build a stable and strong upper body to prepare for the lifting and carrying when the baby is born.

2.     The pelvis shifts and moves during pregnancy, so it is important to have a balanced exercise sequence to protect the low back and hips.

3.     Breathwork helps manage the body’s stress during labour and keeping calm with a crying baby. Long exhales calm the nervous system in labour and parenting.

From a nutritional perspective, there are certain foods that support the baby and mum, and those that do not. Megan recommends:

Foods to avoid:

  • Excess red meat

  • Excess dairy

  • Spicy foods (can create extra acid reflux)

  • Sugar 

Foods to Include:

  • Focus on foods that are easy to digest

  • Cooked greens and veggies

  • Plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables - foods that are filled with vitality

  • Fish (not raw)

  • Chicken

  • Healthy fats e.g. coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil.

Often an issue during pregnancy is constipation. This is because the uterus expands and presses on the large intestine, making it more work to poop. The hormone progesterone is released into the body to relax the muscles, especially the spinchter which makes the contractions to poop harder to make.

Selection of healthy food on rustic wooden background

 Tips for constipation:

  • Drink plenty of warm water to help stimulate digestion

  • Eat fibre rich foods that contain a lot of water (cooked, steamed veggies)

  • When eating fibre rich foods that don’t contain water ( like oats ) make sure you are drinking more water throughout the day 

  • Take probiotic supplements and magnesium citrate that ease the flow out of the body.

  • Enjoy light exercise to move the muscles in the body and food within it.

Movement to support pregnancy

Throughout pregnancy it is great to keep gently active with movement like:

  • Walking

  • Swimming

  • Stationery bikes throughout (the concern is falling off a bicycle on road)

  • Pilates

  • Low-impact aerobics

Get specific advice and see a specialist if you have had any of the following:

  • Premature baby or miscarriage previously

  • Low iron levels

  • High blood pressure

  • Overweight

  • Joint, muscle, lung or heart issues

If there is any of the following during exercise, then stop and rest.

  • Chest or stomach pain

  • Dizziness or feeling faint

  • Shortness of breath

  • Vaginal bleeding

  • Contractions

  • Difficulty walking

First Trimester (weeks 1-12)

This is the ‘sensitive’ period where nausea, tiredness and are dominant. You might not want to do much exercise. You could be lucky and barely notice a difference in your body, but the advice remains: go gentle. There is a huge amount happening in the body at this time and the baby needs your clean energy. Be respectful of the need to rest if that is what your body craves.  

Movement Tips:

  • If you are not active before your pregnancy, build it gently and go to beginner classes. If the nausea is bad, then wait until the second trimester.

  • If you are active, be mindful of taking ‘gentler’ options in class.

  • Aim for 30 minutes x 4 per week.

  • Avoid long hold stretches (especially in yoga) over 10 seconds – the body has begun to release the hormone relaxin into the body and this changes the structure of ligaments and muscle, which can become more easily strained causing injury.

  • High intensity and impact exercise is often something to reduce as it can contribute to too much demand on the pelvic floor.  

  • Technically at this stage it is not a problem to continue with abdominal exercises in Pilates as there is not the compression on the pelvic floor and child, but be mindful of what your body is used.


Second Trimester (13-28 weeks)

It is likely that at this time the ‘bump’ is too large for any prone movements. You will find that this is a time for more kneeling work. Backache can begin and hip problems at this time as the body begins to adjust for the growing foetus.  

Physically the body may begin to feel more energised again, some women find this time fabulous and get a ‘glow’ about them. Limit the amount of time spent lying on the back as this can reduce blood flow to the baby.  

Extra Considerations: Avoid the following:

  • Abdominal crunches

  • Long hold stretches

  • Long isometric contractions e.g. long plank holds and push ups

  • Stop inversions

  • Avoid ‘hot’ classes

  • Backbends focused on the upper back are ok provided the low back is kept neutral. If any back pain has begun then avoid backbends altogether.

Movement Tips:

  • This is a good time for squats and building upper body strength.

  • Focus on quality movements over quantity.

  • Slow and controlled with be beneficial.  

  • Use the ‘talk test’ to ensure that the exercise is the appropriate demand on the lungs and heart. Instructors can use this tactic to check on clients in class and you should be able to chat freely in response.


Third Trimester (29-42 weeks)

It depends on the size of your bump, time of year and weather as to how you could feel during this three months. It is likely that sleep can become more challenging and backache begin as the low back is pulled into a larger arch with the weight of the baby on the front body. Breath can become more laboured as there is less space in the abdomen for the diaphragm to move down into.  

Extra Considerations:

  • Take more frequent rests and do shorter bursts of movement.

  • Lessen the intensity of movement and cardio exercises.

  • Classes may be shorter (30 minutes can be sufficient) at this point with a lot more breathwork focus to build towards childbirth.

  • More frequent toilet breaks are needed as the bladder has less space to hold liquid with the larger baby in the belly.

Movement Tips:

  • Walk more

  • Squat more

  • Pelvic tilts

  • Gentle twists of the shoulders and upper body 

  • Get on a stability ball – they are great for the pelvic floor and comfort to exercise safely

  • Focus on breath exercises that increase the duration of exhale up to 20 counts! This helps with delivery breathing

Nourishing your body throughout pregnancy 

First Trimester (weeks 1-12)

During the first trimester this is when women typically experience morning sickness and general nausea. Nausea is often triggered by an empty stomach. Start practicing eating smaller meals throughout the day so that your stomach is never fully empty. Having a snack ready for you first thing in the morning can help keep the queasiness away. At this time in your pregnancy it is not necessary to take in more calories unless this feels natural and right for you.

This is a great time to eliminate processed meats such as deli and lunch meats, hot dogs and bacon. Avoid undercooked meats and raw seafood.

Tips for morning sickness and nausea:

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  • Eat before you get hungry

  • Smaller meals throughout the day to keep blood sugar stable 

  • Eat slowly, chew well and take smaller bites

  • Get in plenty protein and fat rich snacks 

  • Ginger - you can add it to hot water, grate it into smoothies, stir fry dishes, salad dressings, or chew on the raw ginger (very strong)

  • Foods high in B6 (sunflower seeds, wild salmon, poultry, avocado, spinach, chickpeas)

  • Listen to your body and rest when your body is calling for it 

Second Trimester (13-29 weeks)

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The second trimester is when craving start to come rolling in. Listening to your body’s craving is definitely important. You are wise enough to know when eating certain foods that you are craving in excess is not the best choice. Craving fruits and vegetables for days on end? Knock yourself out. Craving white chocolate cheesecake all day, every day? Have a slice, savour it and find other foods that have similar tastes but are filled with nutrients. 

At this time, it is best to cut back on fast burning carbohydrates like sugar, processed grains (breads, pastas, crackers, cookies). Including more slow burning carbs like brown rice, wild rice quinoa, beans and loads of vegetables. 

While keeping your sugar intake down, this is a great time to add in more nutrient dense fats and protein sources. Avocado, salmon, olive oil, grass fed butter, organic poultry, eggs (cooked well) will all help keep blood sugar levels stable.

Increasing calories by 200-300 calories at this time will look like an extra snack or extra small meal a day.

Third Trimester (29-42 weeks)

In your third trimester it is common to experience heartburn. It will be especially important at this time to keep meals light and small and eat more frequently throughout the day rather than eating large meals. If going out to eat, ask your server to put half of your meal into a take-out container so that you can save it for another meal later on in the day or later that week.

It is very important in this stage to eat slowly, chew well and keep stress levels down as this can aggravate symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux.

How we can help you during your Pregnancy

Privates and At Home:

Our “Repetition Routine” pack is great for pregnant women who want a 30 minute workout to practice at home. Tailored to your body in the current pregnancy, you receive weekly sessions with a qualified instructor online and video of the workout. Buy in 6 week packs to update as your body changes throughout your pregnancy. Work with Nid for the perfect combination of yoga and Pilates to support your body and baby. Starts at £150 for 6 weeks.

Nutrition consultations:

Pregnancy can raise all kinds of issues around food and nutritional needs. Our nutritionists, Megan and Chloe, are both qualified to assist during pregnancy with your nutritional needs.