When you’re pregnant exercise is often the last thing on your mind – you will instead be busy worrying about baby clothes, prams and exactly what to do with the baby when it arrives. But exercise during pregnancy is not only good to get your mind off the terrifying idea of giving birth, but also has many benefits for you and the baby.

In the absence of complications, exercise should be encouraged throughout your pregnancy. However, its important to get the go ahead from your doctor and ensure that the exercise you are doing is tailored for each stage of your pregnancy.

 

So what are the benefits?

A healthy diet and physical activity can positively influence your health status throughout your pregnancy, as well as improve long-term health for both you and your bub. The completion of regular exercise might influence your health by:

  • Helping maintain physical fitness and strength
  • Reducing the risk of gestational diabetes or weight gain
  • Reducing the risk of gestational hypertension or pre-eclampsia
  • Promoting faster recovery following birth
  • Enhancing mood, mental well-being and self-esteem
  • Reducing the risk of abnormal fetal growth
  • Reducing the risk of birth interventions throughout labour
  • Reducing the risk of childhood obesity in offspring

 

What exercise should I be doing?

According to stats from the US more than two thirds of pregnant women take part in some form of exercise, but only 15% exercise at the recommended intensity, type and/or duration. The guidelines suggest the same exercise levels as pre-pregnancy, which is 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise and 2 days of strength training a week.

Suitable aerobic exercise may include any continuous rhythmic movements, such as walking, cycling, dancing, running or swimming. Water aerobics is also a popular form of aerobic exercise for pregnant women, and may be useful in reducing swelling and increasing buoyancy, which may minimise the risk of injuries.

Strength training is also important throughout pregnancy to maintain strength levels for the increased physical demands of being pregnant and to prepare your body for labour. Pelvic floor or “kegal” exercises should also be included to assist the body to carry the added weight of the fetus and to condition the pelvic floor prior to giving birth.

While exercising it’s important to keep the safety of you and your baby at the front of your mind. Exercise that involves lifting heavy weights, increases your risk of falling/tripping or that has a chance of physical contact (such as contact sports) should be avoided to reduce the risk of any injury to yourself or the fetus.

 

What else do I need to keep in mind?

While pregnant your body will go through vast changes, not only weight gain and the necessary anatomical changes to carry the baby, but also physiological changes within your body. These changes may include:

  • Increased blood volume
  • Changes in weight distribution and centre of gravity
  • Release of hormones which increase the laxity of joints (potentially increasing risk of injury)
  • Increased resting heart rate and changes to maximal heart rate
  • Changes to resting blood pressure
  • Postural changes
  • Increased breathing rate

All of these things are important factors to account for when planning your exercise routine and it can become quite overwhelming for new mums to comprehend alone. Its important to be in touch with how you feel and use your body as a guide as to what exercise type, intensity and duration will suit you on a day to day basis.

If you are exercising and find yourself feeling any pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, discomfort, extreme fatigue, headaches, vaginal bleeding or contractions, stop exercising immediately and consult a medical professional.

 

Is there anything that could stop me from exercising?

For some women, there may be certain conditions or circumstances that cause exercise to no longer be appropriate, or where modification or supervision might be recommended. Some contraindications may include:

  • Pregnancy induced hypertension or pre-eclampsia
  • Persistent bleeding in the second or third trimester
  • Uncontrolled gestational diabetes
  • Ruptured membranes or cervix
  • Baby sitting in breech position in third trimester

If any of these contraindications are relevant to you, its important to discuss the appropriateness of exercise with a medical professional, such as your obstetrician, midwife or doctor. The presence of these conditions may not mean exercise is completely off the table, it may just mean that the relevant health professional, such as an Exercise Physiologist, may need to help you to ensure your exercise routine is safe for your current situation.

 

What if I want help to exercise safely while I’m pregnant?

An Exercise Physiologist is perfectly positioned to deliver effective and safe exercise programs, as well as providing support to women throughout their pregnancy. Your Exercise Physiologist would be able to prescribe a program that accounts for the changes to your body, as well as any other co-morbidities, to allow you to safely exercise within your limits. Sessions may include aerobic, strength and flexibility training, as well as incorporating pelvic floor training and education.

At STEPS we offer pregnancy exercise sessions, which help soon to be mums get into the swing of things, with a strong focus on accounting for the way your body is adapting to changes and preparing for labour.

Contact us today to find out how we can help you!

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