It is important to stay active during your pregnancy. Appropriate exercise during pregnancy can help you to cope with the tiredness and discomforts that many pregnant women say are the reasons they are not exercising during pregnancy!
Participating in regular exercise during pregnancy can help you:
- reduce tiredness and enhance your sense of wellbeing during pregnancy.
- regulate your blood-glucose levels and maintain normal blood pressure.
- keep your muscles toned helping to prevent muscle aches, cramps, backache, varicose veins, constipation etc.
- develop postural awareness that will help you to cope with the changes in posture, pressure on your internal organs and the increase in weight that are a normal part of pregnancy.
- acquire or maintain the stamina and endurance to help you cope with the demands of labour and early parenting.
- learn breathing awareness and control that will assist you to stay focused and calm and to conserve energy during your labour
- learn relaxation skills that will help you to cope with the challenges of labour and early parenting.
Women who exercise regularly tend to have more efficient labours, recover more quickly from labour and birth (or c-section surgery) and experience fewer problems like incontinence, backache and depression after they’ve given birth.
Safe Exercise during pregnancy
Your choice of pregnancy exercise will depend on your previous experience of exercise, what you enjoy doing and how “fit” you already are.
If you exercised regularly before pregnancy you will probably be able to continue with your exercise programme during the early stages of your pregnancy, but will gradually need to modify your programme to reduce duration, intensity and impact as your body and your baby grows. About half-way through your pregnancy it is a good idea to switch to classes or activities specifically designed to suit pregnant women.
If you haven’t previously exercised regularly, it is safer to attend classes designed for pregnant women all the way through pregnancy or to begin very gently, gradually increasing the duration of your workout as your fitness builds.
Safe forms of exercise for pregnant women include:- walking, stationery cycling, swimming, aquarobics, belly dancing, pregnancy yoga, pregnancy pilates, non-impact aerobics etc.
If you live in Auckland, click here to request a list of pregnancy exercise classes from MAMA.
If you experience any of the following pregnancy related conditions you should check with your Lead Maternity Carer (LMC) midwife or doctor before exercising; vaginal blood loss, threatened miscarriage or a history of miscarriage; you are carrying twins or triplets, your baby has been diagnosed with slow growth or interuterine growth restriction (IUGR), your placenta is implanted over your cervix (placenta praevia), you have high blood pressure. None of these conditions necessarily means that you will not be able to exercise at all but it is important that you participate in exercise that will not exacerbate any of these conditions.
Tips for exercising safely during pregnancy:
Keep well hydrated. Have a drink of water prior to exercising and drink regularly while you are exercising to prevent overheating and dehydration.
Make sure that whatever form of exercise or class you are doing includes both a warm-up and a cool-down.
Wear a supportive bra (your breasts will probably get bigger during pregnancy) and loose-fitting, layered clothing so that you can prevent overheating.
Your body temperature should stay below 39ºC/102ºF. You need to be particularly careful to avoid overheating during the first 12 – 14 weeks of pregnancy to avoid he possibility of damage to your developing baby.
Make sure that the space you are exercising in is well ventilated and shorten the duration of your workout on hot or humid days.
Don’t overdo it. Shorter more frequent periods of exercise are healthier than fewer, longer workouts. Prolonged or strenuous workouts can use up calories and nutrients that your baby needs for growth.
Your heartrate should not exceed 140 beats per minute and ideally should stay between 120 – 140 during aerobic exercise. Another useful measure of whether you’re exercising too strenuously is the “talk test”. You should be able to converse easily while you are exercising during pregnancy.
Balance periods of exercise with periods of relaxation or periods of activity with periods of rest. The body awareness you practice while exercising within comfortable limits and then consciously relaxing will be invaluable for preparing you to cope with labour.
Stop Exercising if you experience; dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, faintness, headaches, shortness of breath, pounding heart or palpitations, uterine contractions, vaginal bleeding, joint pain. If the problem persists make an appointment for a check-up with your LMC.