With pregnancy now a full year behind me, I look back at the experience as a combination of anxiety, wonder, excitement, and frustration. It was incredible to watch my body change to grow a tiny human being, who I eventually felt kicking my ribs at 2 a.m. But I was also constantly anxious. Was she OK? What would happen to my career when the baby came? I'd never been great at surviving on small amounts of sleep, why did I think I could handle a newborn?
Here's where the frustration comes in. I've spent the last 15 years of my life staving off anxiety with exercise. A long run or a yoga class was the cure for anything. But while I was pregnant, I inevitably found myself slowing down. To make matters worse, there were few fitness maternity options that inspired any kind of excitement—so I ended up tugging my regular leggings and running shorts below my bump, which wasn't comfortable by any stretch of the imagination.
Not being able to have a positive workout experience during one of the most anxious times in my life remains my worst pregnancy memory. So when I found out that Nike was releasing a maternity line called Nike (M), I was excited—and my excitement only grew as I realized that the line was crafted with athletes and people who really loved to sweat in mind, not just women who would take an occasional prenatal yoga class (no disrespect if that's you—I'm all about it!).
Mental and Physical Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy
Let's back up for a second and talk about just how beneficial exercise during pregnancy really is. While it's not usually a good idea to up the intensity of your workouts during pregnancy, for the most part keeping up with anything you were doing pre-pregnancy is just fine.
"Physical activity of any kind during pregnancy and breastfeeding has numerous health benefits including a reduction in cardiovascular disease, less obesity, improved mood, and greater longevity," says Dr. Kimberly Langdon, MD. "It can also lead to weight gain, stronger abdominal muscles for pushing in labor, less risk of muscles splitting (known as diastasis recti), and faster recovery postpartum."
There's research to support the idea that mothers who exercise during pregnancy could be providing a benefit for the baby, too: One study found when women exercised in their third trimester their babies tended to have less body fat, while another study found that babies whose moms exercised while pregnant had healthier heart rates.
Meet the Expert
Kimberly Langdon, MD is an Ohio-based OB/GYN with 20 years of clinical experience. She currently works for Medzino, a trusted online doctor and pharmacy.
Why Nike's Maternity Line Is So Refreshing
To be clear, workout clothes for pregnant women do exist—I just never felt like they were made for someone like me. What I love about Nike's line is that they don't take an (unfortunately far too common) tone that implies that pregnant women are made of glass that will shatter at any moment. Instead, it highlights just how strong they are.
"Pregnancy is the ultimate endurance test," Nike (M)'s description reads. "A marathon measured in months, not miles. Some days you feel powerful. Other days, you don't. But you keep going, because you're a mother. And mothers are the toughest athletes there are. Nike (M) is designed to support you on the ultra, ultramarathon we call motherhood. You are stronger than ever. And we're with you every step of the way."
From tops to leggings and sports bras, every piece is crafted with comfort and function in mind, with zonal fabrics and flexible waistbands. The magic of Nike (M) doesn't stop with pregnancy, either: My absolute favorite piece in this line is their nursing sports bra. I can't tell you how many times I raced home from a workout to a hungry baby, only to have to position my sports bra at an odd and extremely uncomfortable angle for however long my daughter wanted to nurse. I could have used that nursing sports bra 100 times.
It's a bummer that I missed the Nike (M) boat by one year. But it's a comfort to know that should I choose to have another baby, this line will be there to support me.
Harrod CS, Chasan-Taber L, Reynolds RM, et al. Physical activity in pregnancy and neonatal body composition: the healthy start study. Obstet Gynecol. 2014;124(2 Pt 1):257-264. doi:10.1097/AOG.0000000000000373
May L. Building healthier babies & adults for tomorrow. Mo Med. 2011;108(1):55-59.