Protecting your very precious cargo is your priority when pregnant, but does this mean you need to reduce or stop exercising like many people think? Absolutely not is the answer! In fact, so long as you are exercising caution and good common sense, as well as your body, you will actually increase your own health and that of your unborn baby too!
When you find out you are expecting it’s a good idea to discuss your exercising habits with your GP. The doctor will advise you what is clinically safe for you as an individual to continue with or to start but here I will give some general guidelines so you have a rough idea of what you can expect!
The benefits of exercising during pregnancy
- Regular exercise during pregnancy has been shown to decrease the risk of pre-eclampsia.
- You will have a reduced risk of developing gestational diabetes mellitus.
- You will gain less weight during pregnancy and have less fat deposits.
- You will increase your fitness levels which will mean you will be more prepared for the hard slog of labour!
- You will reduce your cardiovascular risk.
- Exercising during pregnancy has great psychological health benefits so can reduce anxiety and worry as well as improve mood and energy levels!
- Exercising can strengthen your back and reduce pain.
- Exercising can reduce constipation which is common in pregnancy.
- It can help to reduce ankle swelling and varicose veins.
What kind of exercise can I do?
Regular aerobic and strength training exercise is recommended during pregnancy for those without pregnancy complications. Aerobic exercise is also known as cardiovascular exercise and examples include walking, swimming, dancing, jogging, running and aerobics. Strength training can include resistance training, weight lifting and flexibility exercises.
It’s also a really good idea to stay on top of your pelvic floor exercises – there’s just no point in pretending that pregnancy isn’t hard on your pelvic floor and can lead to some level of incontinence during pregnancy or after the birth of your baby. There’s a great leaflet here co-written by a fantastic Physiotherapist called Maeve Whelan who is up the road from me here in Milltown who specialises in women’s health & continence – I can’t recommend reading it enough! Here is the link to the leaflet!
Is there anything I should do differently to normal?
- Don’t push yourself to a level where you feel uncomfortable.
- Aim for three to four exercise sessions a week of 15 to 30 mins in duration.
- Always include a ten minute warm up and cool down session – sure don’t we all do that anyway….. 😉
- Don’t let yourself get too hot – so avoid very warm or humid environments.
- Don’t hold your breath whilst your training – keep breathing steadily. During aerobic exercise concentrate on a steady breathing rate and during strengthening exercises breath out on exertion and in on relaxation.
- Keep hydrated.
- Avoid activities which put you or your baby at risk of a fall – for example riding a horse, cycling or skiing.
- Don’t partake in sports which may result in a blow to the abdomen such as soccer, rugby, squash etc.
- Alter exercises which involve you lying on your back after four months of pregnancy – some of these may be done in the standing position against a wall – speak to a knowledgeable gym instructor for advice.
- Wear really comfy cool clothing – nothing too tight on your tummy and have layers that you can remove to avoid getting too hot.
When should I not exercise?
There are obviously many potential reasons why a woman should not exercise during pregnancy and this is why I always recommend chatting about it with your doctor as soon as you find out that you’re growing a VIP. Some reasons can include uncontrolled medical conditions such as hypertension, thyroid disease, diabetes, and anaemia. Physical issues such as an incompetent cervix, restricted intrauterine growth or bleeding can also be a reason not to exercise. This list is not exhaustive so do have a chat with your doctor about it.
You should stop exercising if you are finding it difficult to catch your breath or are suffering from chest pain. You should also stop if you suffer from any vaginal bleeding or painful contractions. Stop exercising if you get swollen legs or decreased foetal movement. If you feel faint its time to sit down and take a break. It can be very hard for women to stop exercising when they are used to it, and it can make your feel a little sluggish and low. Just remember it will all be worth it soon so try to put your feet up and relax if you have to! Listen to your body – it is growing your baby and it knows best!
I hope you found this information helpful and as always don’t hesitate to contact me on the WonderBaba Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/wonderbabacare) with any questions or for one to one advice for your little one! You can also consult with me in person at Milltown totalhealth Pharmacy in Dublin 6 or over the phone on 012600262.