Many people think that exercise during pregnancy is dangerous and that women should put their feet up and rest as much as possible. This may sound appealing (at least for a couple of days) but generally exercise during pregnancy, as long as it is done sensibly, is beneficial to both the mother and the baby.
We’re not talking about running the marathon (unless you’re Paula Radcliff). Exercise during pregnancy should be ‘recreational’, aiming to stay fit rather than reach peak fitness.
Benefits of Exercising during Pregnancy
There are many benefits to exercising in pregnancy.
- Reduces common complaints that occur during pregnancy such as fatigue, swelling, insomnia, stress, anxiety and depression.
- Reduces other problems such as weight gain, cardiovascular problems, gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia.
- Reduces the risk of developing colon cancer and may reduce the risk of breast cancer later in life.
- Tolerate labour better.
- Reduces stress.
Pregnant women who exercise may tolerate Labour Better
There have been studies that show that women who exercise in pregnancy may tolerate labour better, that it can reduce the length of labour and the amount of complications.
Can you exercise if you're Breastfeeding?
Yes! Of course you can exercise if you are breastfeeding. It doesn’t affect the amount or quality of your milk and most women can exercise as soon after delivery as they feel ready.
Risks of Exercising during Pregnancy
It is important to balance the benefits and the risks. During pregnancy your body changes. Your joints become lax and hyper-mobile (you become much more stretchy). Your metabolic rate increases meaning your body temperature can increase. And obviously you are carrying a large bump on your front, albeit a very precious large bump.
Be Careful when Exercising during Pregnancy
- Don’t get too hot.
- Drink lots of water.
- Don’t over-exert yourself.
- Avoid very hot and humid conditions.
- Avoid low blood sugar by eating well during pregnancy and don’t exercise for more than 45 minutes at a time.
- Avoid low blood pressure by not doing exercises that involve lying on your back, especially after 16 weeks.
- Avoid physical injury by doing warm up and cool down exercises.
- Consider wearing a pelvic support belt (because of the loose joints).
- Choose activities with minimal risk of loosing balance or being hit in the abdomen such as judo or squash.
When to seek help
- If you have any unusual symptoms (such as pain or shortness of breath) you should stop exercising and contact your healthcare professional immediately.
- If you have a medical condition you should discuss with your healthcare professional before doing recreational exercise.
- If you didn’t exercise before pregnancy, you should start with no more than 15 minutes 3 times a week and gradually build up.
- If you did exercise before pregnancy, you should be able to continue provided that you take the above precautions.
Find an Exercise during Pregnancy Class
There are many fantastic classes that are designed especially for pregnant ladies, such as aqua aerobics and pregnancy yoga. They should help you to find an exercise routine that you are comfortable with. Plus you’ll probably meet some new mummy friends.
If you have any concerns, it is prudent to talk to your midwife or doctor before doing any exercise.
Sensible and ‘recreational’ exercise during pregnancy is beneficial to both baby and mother. So go and have fun and enjoy a bit of "me time".