Exercise in pregnancy
Is exercise safe in pregnancy?
Yes, for both mum and baby
Exercise is most definitely recommended in pregnancy, as in all stages of life. You just have to be aware of some of the changes your body will go through and you may need to adapt your workout.
Does not harm your baby
Helps you stay fit
Helps you sleep better
Helps you feel less anxious
Helps you feel less tired
Reduces back and pelvic pain
Reduces swelling of the legs
Are there any precautions I need to take?
Perhaps. The advice in this blog is general in nature and not specific to your individual situation. Please check with your midwife or doctor as there are a few pregnancy complications where advice changes, including:
If your membranes have ruptured
If you have gone into early labour
If you have high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia
If you have problems with your cervix staying closed or being short
If baby is not growing well
Exercise is ok if you are having one or two babies, but you’ll need specific advice if you are having three or more babies!
If you are in the last third of your pregnancy and your placenta is covering the cervix (placenta previa)
If you have bleeding past the first third of your pregnancy
Are some exercises better than others?
Simply moving is a good start! It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or involve special clothes, shoes or memberships. If you are already exercising, most programs can be adapted to accommodate your changing body. It is recommended that you work towards getting a basic level of fitness or staying fit rather than trying to become super fit.
Suitable for most:
Low impact aerobics
Pregnancy exercise classes
Cycling (safest on a stationary bike)
Light weight training (please let your trainer know you are pregnant)
Are some exercises bad?
Please don’t fall or have blows to your belly, so some contact sports are not ideal. If you are a gymnast, tightrope walker, scuba diver or skier, I’d suggest you choose another activity during pregnancy! If you are not sure if your exercise is appropriate, check with your midwife, doctor or a women’s health physiotherapist. We want to protect you, your baby and your pelvic floor. Do be cautious about the following situations:
Exercises with lots of bouncing, such as high impact aerobics, skipping or star jumps as they may strain your pelvic floor
Be careful about exercises which involve lots of twisting and turning — as the pregnancy progresses you may find that you will strain your joints and muscles in ways you haven’t done before due to pregnancy hormones
Crunches and curls put strain on your abdominal muscles and are not recommended. Learn how to do abdominal bracing exercises
Don’t overheat. Keep cool and don’t forget to drink water/stay hydrated
If you have pain or dizziness, STOP. Let your instructor know or get advice from your midwife/doctor/physiotherapist
The practical stuff
Wear a good sports bra and upgrade it as you get further along in your pregnancy
Especially in the second half of your pregnancy:
~Avoid lying flat on your back for too long as this can reduce the blood flow to your brain (you may feel dizzy) and to baby
~Your centre of gravity changes due to the baby bump. You need to be careful as this affects your balance and can increase your risk of falls
~You will find that you are more short of breath as the uterus gets bigger and puts pressure on your diaphragm, which affects the way you breathe. This is worse if you are also anaemic. You will have to change your workout to adapt to the new reality!
Keep your fluid intake up!
Do your pelvic floor exercises!!
What about running?
That is a tricky question! Safe running during pregnancy depends upon a number of specific factors, including if you have any existing concerns about your pelvic floor and the quality of your connective tissue, which can be influenced by factors including your ethnicity. If you are keen to run beyond the first trimester, I would strongly advise you seek early input from a woman’s health physiotherapist.
Take home message:
If you are already active, keep up the good work, but be prepared to adapt. Now is not the time to start training for a marathon however physical fitness is good for you and baby. If you are not an active person and you are cleared by your midwife and/or doctor, it’s not too late to start moving. Start low and go slow, aiming for 30 minutes 5 days a week. So, you could start with 10-15 minutes a day of gentle walking, where you could hold a conversation easily and work your way up to 30 minutes a day where you are getting puffed and can talk in short sentences but not sing.