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Parenthood related topics written by the founders of charlotte+asher.

How I worked out while pregnant

Chantal Standafer

Disclaimer: This is my own experience working out while pregnant and being followed by an OB/GYN. Please talk to your doctor for her clearance and advice for your own workouts.

As I heaved the wall ball up one last time, I thought to myself, “I sure hope this helps this baby come out!” At 38 weeks 6 days pregnant with our first child, I was ready to not be pregnant any longer. And doing squats would surely help with having a baby, I reasoned! I also thought that if that didn’t work out, then I would move onto the “inducer wod (workout of the day)” one of the trainers had mentioned to me. But I had no need to worry -- less than 24 hours later my water broke and I was in labor. And in just over 24 hours we were holding our little baby girl! Ironically, with our son, I was at the gym doing a wod the day before he was born, too.

I have found CrossFit to be a wonderful way to stay active and in shape. I don’t have to plan anything, other than what time I’ll be making it to a class. Once I show up, all the programming is set. And I work harder because I’m in a class with other people. Luckily, recommendations for physical activity during pregnancy have adjusted over the years. Barring any health concerns,  most doctors now encourage their patients to have some physical activity while pregnant. So, strange as it may sound to some, I continued doing CrossFit while I was pregnant.

When I met with my OB we discussed working out with CrossFit while pregnant. I explained that I had been doing it for nearly a year by that point, and my doctor gave me the green light to continue what I was doing. As a first-time mom (and rule follower), I wanted hard and fast rules to stand by while doing so, but really her advice boiled down to “listen to your body, you’ll know when it’s time to stop.”  So while each pregnancy was different, here’s the form working out took for me during those two 9-month periods:

Pregnancy #1

The first trimester was rough with feeling nauseous, so I didn’t make it to the gym as much as before the pregnancy. Also, I modified movements that made me feel ill. The big one here was front squats because of the barbell pressing against my neck.

Once the second trimester hit I had so much energy that I was at the gym nearly everyday first thing in the morning (I already had trouble sleeping at that point). I was able to do front squats normally again without feeling like I was going to be ill, but I did start modifying other movements. Around the 20 week mark I started cutting back on situps, eliminating them fully before the third trimester. Also in the second half of the trimester, I modified any exercise that required cleaning the bar because my belly began to impede the path of the bar. I simply did the same movement but with dumbells instead.

In the third trimester I scaled back on the activities that I found to be uncomfortable. I stopped running a couple of months before my due date because one of my knees started to hurt, replacing any runs in the workouts with rowing. And I stopped jumping rope because that was just no fun! But other than that, I kept doing the workouts, just with lighter weights than I had been lifting previously.  

Pregnancy #2

I continued on as normal at the gym when I found out I was pregnant. Actually, this time I did not have morning sickness and my first trimester workouts really did not suffer due to being pregnant. But just short of 13 weeks pregnant, I experienced bleeding (not associated with a workout) and was found to have a subchorionic hematoma. Following my doctor’s recommendation, I stopped working out until the blood clot resolved, which took about ten weeks. During that time I noticed a difference in how my body felt -- my back hurt much more and I felt a lot weaker than I had remembered from the first pregnancy. I also felt like I had less energy, although I’m not sure if this was due to lack of activity or keeping up with a toddler while pregnant. I did keep up any level of activity that my doctor said was O.K. At first I wasn’t supposed to do anything, and then slowly I was able to go for walks. Eventually, at 23 weeks with the blood clot fully resolved, I was able to work out again.

Due to the time I had taken off from the gym and my growing, slightly awkward belly, it took some time to find my rhythm again. I had to ease myself back into the workouts, first starting with only bodyweight exercises and then slowly building my weights back up. But within a few weeks I was able to do the normal workouts with only slight modifications. However, this time I carried even lower than during the first pregnancy so some modifications, particularly rowing in place of running, were uncomfortable. I would have to stop frequently during the rows in order to adjust my belly.

My workouts did not keep me immune from backaches, but I definitely reaped some of the other benefits such as extra energy and increased strength. Plus, I felt a lot stronger and more able to carry Gaby around while pregnant with Boyd, because let’s face it, tantrums and strong wills do not stop for the pregnant mama.

What do you do to stay active while pregnant?