In General

The first trimester was three months of contradiction. On one hand I was constantly ravenous. I couldn't stop eating. I craved tropical fruit most of all, but sweet things in general. On the other hand, though I was spared morning sickness, I did walk around for the first month and a half feeling like I had a hangover 24/7.

I was grumpy and irritable and wanted to rip the lungs out of anyone who so much as looked at me. I was also knackered all the time, and went to bed between 7:30-9:00 every night, with a nice long nap most afternoons.

Also, interestingly, during this time my body chose to reject almost all of my vices. Coffee became positively nauseating, as did salty and fried foods, and, strangely enough, Italian food. I was never much of a drinker, but alcohol just ceased to hold any interest at all. The Baby did allow me to keep my sweet tooth, however, and even turned it up a notch.

Martial Arts

It was very, very difficult to make myself exercise in any sense of the word, but strangely, when I did, it helped immensely. Even taking a long walk cleared my head and made me feel better for a while.

My physician told me I could continue to exercise as usual during this period, and for the most part I tried, although the fatigue made it difficult even on good days. I chose this time to tell my instructors and classmates I was pregnant, to give them time to get used to the idea. I also started wearing a padded torso protector for any activities involving partner work.

I tested for my red belt in Tae Kwon Do at three months. The test included kata (forms), Hapkido defense techniques, and breaking (two boards each with a front kick and an elbow strike). Usually one-on-one and multiple-partner contact sparring is required at the advanced level, but my instructor waived this requirement at my request. I passed.

My studies in Kung Fu progressed as usual.


At about four months, suddenly the constant fatigue stopped, along with each and every unpleasant symptom described above. I was imbued with incredible amounts of energy, and my appetite, thankfully, returned to normal.

Also at this time, I began to feel a small lump in my abdomen. Over the next two months, predictably, the lump (ie; baby) grew. By month 5, my balance had not been affected, but I found that the lump kept me from kicking as high as I usually had. Also, excessive exercise caused some pain in the muscles of the lower abdomen.

Martial Arts

My physician advised me that, after the first trimester, I should avoid activities involving contact (partner work) and impact (ie; falling, throwing, jumping, etc.), but other than this, should use how I feel as a guide. I made the following modifications to my training:

  • Eliminated: sparring, falling techniques, jumping/flying kicks, impact calisthenics (jumping jacks, running, etc.), sit-ups, backward abdominal stretching.
  • Modified: substituted 4.0 mph treadmill walking for 5.0 mph running, and reduced treadmill time from 45 minutes to half an hour. I found that too much time on the treadmill led to pain in the lower abdominal muscles.
  • Belly Bra: As my belly got bigger and bigger, I found maternity support garments to be very helpful in reducing abdominal stress and pain due to exercise.

It's important to be pro-active when protecting your health and your baby's safety. Your instructor may have experience with pregnancy or teaching pregnant students, or s/he may not. Even if your instructor is female, it's no guarantee that she knows what is safe for you.

From my own experience, some of my instructors had a good idea about pregnancy safety, and others had no clue. At 5-1/2 months, one instructor thought it was just dandy for a pregnant person to run across the room, do a vertical leap and kick simultaneously at targets to the left and right. WRONG! This sort of thing is inviting a serious fall. Educate yourself by reading about exercise and pregnancy, and by talking to your physician. Then educate your instructors.