Why should you be a Pre and Post Natal Specialist Instructor?
Pre and Post Natal woman are categorised as a ‘special populations group’. This would be any female who has just become pregnant, currently going through pregnancy, or has given birth within the last 16 weeks (minimum). In order to train these clients, you must have the necessary qualifications, as the changes to the body can be complex, severe, and it can have serious consequences if exercise is not safely designed.
Firstly, should woman train during the Pre and Post Natal period?
It was previously believed that exercise should be avoided during the pre-natal period. However, we now know that exercise is extremely beneficial for the health of both baby and mother, and should be encouraged for a number of reasons. The pre-natal period is not a time for really pushing yourself with your training, working in high heart rate zones, smashing personal bests or drastic body composition changes, but that does not mean it isn’t very important, and maintaining health and fitness levels should be the aim.
Managing maternal weight gain is one key reason to keep exercise going. The expecting mother will gain weight during pregnancy. This will be a combination of the fetal weight, increase in fluids within the body (increased blood volume, amniotic fluid etc) and some extra fat storage around the hips for protection. However, gaining excess body fat is going to make the pregnancy and the post-natal recovery much more challenging. Mobility will be reduced, risks of gestational diabetes will be increased, fitness levels will regress significantly, posture issues such as low back pain will be more prominent and ultimately, general comfort during the pregnancy will be much more difficult if a client isn’t exercising or looking after their nutrition.
Into the post-natal period, dealing with a new-born child will become more challenging if the new mother is suffering from discomfort and a lack of functional strength. This can also increase the difficulty of starting training again after the birth, as the longer the client has gone without training, the tougher it will be to start again given the stress that the body will have gone through during pregnancy. Weakened pelvic floor muscles and sometimes prominent separation of the abdominal muscles following childbirth can have a wide range of negative effects, such as stress incontinence, prolapse, weakened core (posture and comfort issues) and loss of functional strength. These are important reasons why an instructor must know exactly what they are doing in order to rehab the body effectively post-birth.
Other factors come as a bonus of exercising through this period. Increased energy levels when waves of fatigue can be common, improved quality of sleep when this can be a struggle during and after pregnancy, and general improvements in mood and well-being following endorphin release in exercise can help to maintain good mental health when their will be a variety of hormonal changes during this time. One in ten mothers will suffer with post-natal depression, so maintaining a healthy body image and positive feelings of well-being associated with exercise can be really beneficial for woman at this time.
Why must you be suitably qualified to train Pre and Post Natal clients?
The risks of training during pregnancy become pronounced if you do not understand the changes that happen in the female body and how this effects exercise choice, selection and intensity. It is vital that clients train with a specialist during this time to maximise safety and effectiveness. Understanding that they are at higher risk of suffering from increases in blood pressure, different posture abnormalities, increase in risk of injury through hormonal changes, and other factors which may put the mother and baby at risk means you can be confident planning exercise to suit them. Any risk of trauma to the baby bump or of falling over must be eliminated.
During the qualification, you will learn how to adapt and regress exercise so that you can eliminate any risk of harm to the mother or baby, and can help best prepare them physically for the birth and beyond. Knowing how exercise will need to change as you work through the 3 trimesters of pregnancy means your client will always be working optimally in the gym.
Knowing what exercises to avoid, exercise positions which can be harmful, the correct way to train the core (due to complications with diastasis recti), the correct intensities to be aiming for during cardiovascular work, the right type of flexibility work and how to combat the increased risk of overheating and dehydration are all vital components of making a programme.
As we know, no two pregnancies are identical, so it becomes important that you understand the different changes, when they are likely to take place, but also how this can differ client to client, so you can adapt your programme to suit each individual client.
With all clients, you want to be able to relate to them in order to help get the most from them. Understanding the changes that take place during this time can allow you to be more empathetic, sensitive and ultimately, have your clients receive a gold standard service.
Why should I get qualified to train this client group?
If you are a Personal Trainer who trains any female clients, the chances of one of them becoming pregnant at some point in which you are training them is common. Losing a client for the 9 months of their pregnancy and then at least another further 3 months post pregnancy can mean being without that client for upwards of a year. This could be a big loss in income if it is one or more of your regular clients. If your client then chose to train with a Pre and Post Natal Specialist Instructor during that period, they may continue to work with them beyond that. If you continue to train your client without being suitably qualified, you can not only put them at risk, but leave yourself open to be liable for anything that happens during a session. This makes it a key ethical and legal requirement.
If you are a Pre and Post Natal Specialist Instructor, it will also help you to generate new clients who are going through this period and want to continue training. It can open you up to a wider range of potential clients which may continue training with you beyond their pregnancy. According to the Office of National Statistics, over 700’000 woman give birth every year in the UK, so there is always going to be a constant demand for this type of trainer.
The cost of the qualification is relatively low, and the knowledge you will gain from it is very high. You will likely have paid off the course fees through having one client in this period, making it a very good investment in yourself, and from a business point of view, makes a lot of sense.
According to REPs, under 10% of PT’s are qualified as a Level 3 Pre and Post Natal Specialist Instructor, so it may even be a struggle for these clients to find a specialist instructor in their gym. If there isn’t any currently in your gym, it could be a good market to exploit to generate new clients as well as increasing value for your current clients.
In summary, if you are thinking of taking on these types of clients, it is vital that you know what you are doing. It is your duty of care as a fitness professional to have the knowledge to safely train this client group to protect both your client and yourself. The last thing anyone wants is to be responsible for any complications during a clients pregnancy, so taking the time to get the qualification is a really good investment in yourself. It can not only help your business, but improve your confidence and trust within the industry. Besides the ethical requirements, it is an extremely interesting course, and can really help you to understand what a woman is going through during pregnancy.