Pregnancy-Safe Exercises for Your Surrogacy Journey

Written by Guest Experts Expecting and Empowered 

Exercising is extremely beneficial to you and baby during your surrogacy journey. Working out strengthens your body for the physical demands of pregnancy, prepares you for labor, and even helps you de-stress. But like other areas of your life during pregnancy, your workouts need adjustments to keep you and the growing baby safe.

The most important thing you can do while exercising during pregnancy is follow an expert-backed program designed for every stage. The Expecting and Empowered App was created to take all the guesswork out of a pregnancy-safe workout routine. Founded by Krystle, a women’s health physical therapist and certified prenatal and postnatal exercise specialist, and Amy, a certified personal trainer, they’ve helped thousands of women through their pregnancies.

In this blog post, we’ll share how to modify your favorite exercises and introduce you to new, pregnancy-safe routines that empower you throughout your surrogacy experience.

Mix it Up With Cardio and Strength Training

Exercising is a key part of a healthy pregnancy. Still, there’s a lot of confusion about how much exercise is safe. The national exercise recommendation for pregnant women is 150 minutes of exercise per week. You can break this down into 5 quick 30-minute workouts a week. We like to further break this down into 3 days of strength training and 2 days of light cardio, like walking. From there, we love to see women pick up weights, practice dynamic movements, and do smart core work during pregnancy. Combined, this will help reduce those pregnancy aches and pains, plus prepare your body for labor!

Give Yourself Grace During the First Trimester

The first trimester can be incredibly tough, so lifting weights may not be possible if you’re fatigued or dealing with morning sickness. That’s OK! Take a short walk to move your body during this season if you can. Our app users most frequently use our pregnancy app program during the second trimester. This is when you usually feel your best and ready to work out. Just remember: any movement during your surrogacy journey is excellent!

Focus on Low Weight + High Reps 

Strength training builds muscular endurance, which is key for pregnancy. But instead of lifting heavy weights, lift lighter ones and focus on doing more repetitions. Lifting low weight with high reps helps strengthen connective tissue and prepares your body for the intense physicality of labor. Lifting too heavy can increase abdominal pressure and strain your belly and pelvic floor.

Elevate Your Surface

A growing belly can put pressure on your abs during classic exercises like planks. Elevating the surface you’re working on can help reduce your range of motion and ease this pressure. Some ways you can elevate exercises include:

  • Squats: Modify by placing a board under your heels for elevation. Point your toes slightly outward to create space for your belly.
  • Planks: Elevate your body by placing your knees on the floor or your hands on a bench or table.
  • Push-ups: Modify by placing your knees on the floor or hands on a bench or table. Wall push-ups are another great option.

Connect Your Core and Breathe

Proper breathing, known as diaphragmatic breathing, is crucial in activating the pelvic floor muscles. These muscles support the bladder, uterus, and bowels. Learning to relax these muscles during the third trimester helps prepare for labor and delivery.

To practice diaphragmatic breathing, inhale through your nose as you breathe into the back of your bra line (you should feel your ribs expand). Then, exhale audibly through your nose or mouth during the most challenging part of an exercise. Deep squats with focused breathing can help you learn to move your breath down to your pelvic floor.

You can also use your breath to gauge your workout intensity with the “talk test.” While working out, you should be able to carry on a conversation. If you can’t, you are likely pushing yourself too hard.

Adjust Your Stance and Posture

Pregnancy may require slight adjustments to your stance to accommodate your growing belly. For example, you may need to move your feet slightly wider than shoulder width when doing squats. Pointing your toes outward also creates additional space.

Rib alignment is also crucial! When exercising, always keep your ribs stacked over your pelvis. This avoids rib flaring, which makes breathing difficult. Rib flaring can also cause pain and prevent diastasis recti (separation of abdominal muscles) from healing.

Get Started With These Pregnancy-Safe Exercises

Once you’re following your pregnancy-safe program, specific areas you want to focus on include:

Keeping Your Feet Happy: Your feet act like your body’s shock absorbers, taking pressure off your joints. Tight, stiff, or swollen feet during pregnancy can hinder movement. Exercises that help pamper your feet include:

  • DB Hip Opener with Ankle Mobilization
  • Calf Raises

Keeping Your Hips Mobile: Tight hips contribute to pain and soreness during pregnancy. If you don’t move your hips at multiple angles, they get even more tight and sore. As you get farther along, you want to incorporate moves that work your hips at multiple angles, like:

  • 3-Way Chair Squats
  • Speed Skaters
  • CB Lateral Step
  • CB Hip Internal and External Rotation

Connecting Your Breath to the Pelvic Floor: To help work on proper breathing, you want to get into positions that make you breathe better into your bottom. Exercises that help connect your breath and pelvic floor include:

  • Squat with Diaphragmatic Back Body Breathing
  • Doorway Stretch with Breath
  • Child’s Pose with Angles (modify this pose as the baby grows and restricts diaphragm movement)

Strengthening Your Deep Core: A strong core helps reduce lower back pain, decrease the risk of ab separation, and increase the chances of a smoother delivery. You want to focus on core exercises that keep your sides loose and engaged. This helps your deepest core muscles (the transverse abdominals) shine, which promotes proper breathing and stability. Exercises that help engage your deep core and keep your sides loose include:

  • Side Lying X
  • Standing QL Stretch
  • Deep Core: Quadruped TA Contraction (Baby Hug)
  • Standing Chops
  • ½ Kneeling RB Twists

Mobilizing and Strengthening Your Upper Body: A strong and mobile upper back helps improve your posture. It also supports your core and parasympathetic nervous system—which is responsible for relaxation! Exercises that target the upper back include:

  • Side Lying Thoracic Rotation with Circles
  • Standing Lower Cervical and Upper Thoracic Stretch
  • Modified Side Plank with Thoracic Rotation

Relaxing Your Pelvic Floor: During the third trimester, you want to focus on relaxing the pelvic floor muscles to prepare for birth. Exercises that can help you learn to relax these muscles include:

  • Deep Squat with Block
  • Wide Leg Child’s Pose

Again, it’s vital to do these exercises with the guidance of a pregnancy-safe program. Easy-to-follow workouts that meet you exactly where you are in pregnancy make it easy to work out safely and commit to physical fitness. All these and so much more are included in the Expecting and Empowered App.

About Expecting and Empowered 

Expecting and Empowered provides educational and expert-backed workout guides for pregnant and postpartum women. Co-founded by sisters and moms Krystle Howald and Amy Kiefer, Expecting and Empowered uses professional expertise to help ALL women thrive from their pregnancy journey through postpartum. Krystle Howald, DPT, PCES, has been a physical therapist for 12 years and has treated hundreds of pregnancy and postpartum patients. Amy Kiefer, RN-BSN, NSCA-CPT, is a nurse, personal trainer, and certified doula.   

Expecting and Empowered was born as Krystle and Amy experienced their own pregnancies. Even with their extensive exercise science and medical training, they were still surprised at how demanding pregnancy was on their bodies. Expecting and Empowered was created to offer women more guidance and a program they could trust. The Expecting + Empowered App offers safe workouts for each trimester to physically and mentally guide you through your pregnancy. The app also includes expert-backed postpartum programs—including C-section, core, and running programs. Amy and Krystle also host the Expecting + Empowered Podcast to help women make even more informed decisions about their own health.