Exercise in pregnancy, is it safe?
Of course it is! Being pregnant doesn’t mean stopping exercise giving yourself an excuse to be lazy! On the contrary! Exercise is very beneficial during pregnancy and being in a good state of physical and mental health can significantly improve your labour experience. Of course, not every form of sport or exercise is safe to do when you’re pregnant, but many forms are.
Pregnancy isn’t the time to start exercising frantically and if you’ve rarely exercised in the past, it’s important not to over-do it. As a general guideline, its best to start slowly and build up gradually, keeping a careful eye on how your body reacts. If you have an underlying medical condition or your GP warns you against exercise, PLEASE take note and listen!!
Exercising in pregnancy is important for lots of great reasons. It
- Releasing “happy hormones”
- Preparing your body for labour (it’s not called labour for nothing!)
- Helps you to carry the weight you gain during pregnancy
- Makes getting back into shape after your baby is born easier
- Good blood flow – the increased oxygen is passed on to your baby
- Keeping your muscles toned so that they will recover more quickly and get you back into your jeans after birth!
It also offers the chance to meet up and get to know other pregnant mums. It’s fun seeing everyone else’s bump and helps you to feel more normal, and everyone is usually very friendly as you are all in the same boat and happy to talk aches and pains.
Also, these are the same mums you’ll meet in postnatal exercise classes and you’ll see them around town: at the doctor’s, the supermarket, toddler groups and so on. It’s the start of feeling part of a new community.
So… what is safe and what is not I hear you ask?!
Baby Bod Mother of course!
Low-impact aerobics, developed specifically by Fairy Bod Mothers trained instructor, gives you a regular time slot when you’re guaranteed to get some exercise. If you sign up for a class for pregnant women, you’ll get to make new friends, and can feel reassured that each movement is safe for you and your baby (McMurray et al 1996, Larssen and Lindgvist 2005, Collins et al 1983).
Walking keeps you fit without jarring your knees and ankles, and gives your heart a workout if you walk briskly. It is safe throughout your pregnancy and can be built into your every-day routine.
Swimming is one of the best and safest forms of exercise for you. It exercises both your large muscle groups (your arms and legs) and works your heart and lungs. The bigger your bump gets, the more you’ll enjoy feeling weightless in the water (Artal and O’Toole 2003, Lynch et al 2003).
Yoga and stretches
Yoga helps to maintain muscle tone and flexibility. It’s kinder to your joints than more vigorous types of exercise. However, you may have to go walking a few times a week to give your heart a workout. This will complement the stretching you do in your yoga sessions.
The stretching helps to keep you supple. This should work particularly well for you, because of the effects of a pregnancy hormone called relaxin. Relaxin makes the strong tissues that connect your bones (ligaments) more pliable. Don’t overdo the stretching, though. Think about gently opening and extending your body rather than pushing yourself. Your yoga teacher will show you how to relax your body and mind.
Pilates exercises follow patterns of movement which work and strengthen your tummy and pelvic floor muscles, a segment of your body known as the stable core or base.
Your Pilates teacher will guide you on your posture, making you aware of how you hold your body. She’ll take you through a series of positions and movements that are designed to build your strength. You’ll learn how to time your breathing with the exercises, and how to achieve relaxation. Pilates exercise can be useful during and after pregnancy. It targets the muscles which can weaken during pregnancy, in a way that supports rather than strains them.
Exercises to Avoid
It may sound quite obvious, but below is a list of activities to avoid….
Hockey, gymnastics, diving, mountain biking…. Are all things you should avoid unfortunately, you’ll soon get back in the flow when your wee ones born! If you are unsure whither it is safe to carry on with other activities, please make sure you ask a member of your maternity team!
Pregnancy Fitness and Exercise Tips
Choose a safe form of exercise that you know you’ll enjoy
Check the qualifications of the instructor
Start your fitness regime slowly and then gradually build up
Try going to an Antenatal class where everyone will be in the same boat.
Avoid exercising in hot or humid conditions
Make sure you drink plenty of water, during and after
Avoid high impact movement
If you feel faint, sick, very sweaty or exhausted, then slow down and stop exercising! Likewise, if you experience and abdominal pains, stop what you’re doing and see your doctor. It may be nothing but its best to stay on the safe side!