Post a selfie during a workout, and you’ll usually get supporting “atta-girl!” type responses. But when Lea-Ann Ellison displayed a photo of herself doing a single-arm kettlebell squat, she was called "irresponsible" and stirred up an Internet firestorm—because the 35-year-old mother is due in two weeks with her second child. But is Ellison's dedication to the intense workout really endangering her baby, or is she doing what's best for it by staying fit and healthy?
"Doing CrossFit while pregnant is completely safe," says Katelyn Block, a certified CrossFit trainer in Rochester, NY, who works with women in all stages of life. Jennifer Daif Parker, M.D., of Del Ray OBGYN associates agrees—as long as, like Ellison (who posted on the CrossFit Facebook page that she’s been doing CrossFit for two and a half years), you were fit before you got pregnant. "If you were doing it prior to getting pregnant it's great to continue, but I wouldn't recommend starting a new routine that intense if you never did it before during pregnancy,” Parker says.
RELATED: The Truth About Prenatal Exercise
Same goes for most other types of exercise. According to the American Academy of Obstetrics and Gynecology, it is perfectly safe to continue your existing fitness program during your pregnancy as long as your doctor gives you the okay. In fact they recommend that all women who have no complications with their pregnancies get 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week, adding that the exercise can be anything you enjoy that doesn't risk abdominal trauma and isn't scuba diving.
"Women who aren’t deemed high risk can exercise while pregnant," says Carline Vilfort, M.D., D.O. Not only will exercise help with common pregnancy complaints such as back pain and sleep troubles, it also triggers the flow of endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin, making you feel good overall, she adds.
“Exercising while pregnant can also help keep excessive baby weight off as well as make labor easier even if by a small amount," Block says.
However, if you feel pain in any region, early contraption, less fetal movement, or vaginal discharge while exercising, stop and call the doctor immediately. There are also some things to keep in mind for specific types of workouts.
RELATED: No-Time, No-Excuses Workout
Hot yoga is particularly effective for easing back pain, as it relaxes and strengthens the body’s core muscles, Vilfort says. Women in their first trimester, however, should avoid anything heated, and those who are pregnant for the first time should also stick to standard yoga since they’re not sure yet how their bodies will react to heat. In addition, Vilfort says pregnant women should avoid lying on their backs after the first trimester and should use the pregnancy modifications of uncomfortable poses. Ask your instructor to help you find different ways to adjust poses as your pregnancy advances.
When it comes to lifting weights, Vilfort is a little more cautious. "If a woman was lifting weights before she got pregnant, chances are that she can keep lifting weight as long as she doesn’t have to lie flat on her back or engage in heavy weight routines," she says. Block adds to listen to your body, modify moves that make you uncomfortable as your pregnancy progresses, and cut out exercises that your doc says you must not do, such as sit-ups.
And if you’re a cardio girl, almost anything goes as long as you feel well doing it, Vilfort says, but ease up on the intensity as your delivery date gets closer.
Bottom line: Stay active during your pregnancy, but stick to your usual routine; now is not the time to experiment!
What do you think? Is Ellison doing something healthy or do you think you shouldn't do CrossFit while pregnant? Tell us in the comments below or tweet us @Shape_Magazine.