Pregnancy exercise needs to be safe, but it can be incredibly beneficial if done right! Follow these guidelines for exercising during pregnancy to stay safe, fit strong and healthy!
You should not be aiming to dramatically increase your fitness when exercising during pregnancy. Aim to maintain a basic fitness to make pregnancy more comfortable, and to enable you to get back into exercising more easily after birth. Adjust your programme as your pregnancy progresses, and if yours is a low-risk pregnancy, and your doctor approves, you can continue to exercise right up until your due date.
Remember, there is no evidence to support the common fear that pregnancy exercise increases the risk of miscarriage or of congenital defects. All available evidence indicates that continuing or starting a regular exercise programme will not increase a woman’s chances of going into premature labour.
As physical and emotional changes seem to overwhelm you, regular pregnancy exercise will make you feel better about yourself and more in control of your changing body and raging hormones. A pregnant woman who feels positive about herself, will pass that feeling of well being onto her baby – pregnancy exercise is good for both of you!
- Exercise comfortably, not intensely. Be aware that you have less oxygen available for exercise. Stop exercising when you feel tired, and don’t exercise to the point of exhaustion.
- Be consistent Exercise regularly – not intermittently. Exercising three days a week is a good routine. Keep your exercise intensity in the mild-to-moderate range, and don’t exercise for more than 30 minutes at a time.
- Drink plenty of water to keep you hydrated and prevent overheating. Water is essential for virtually every function of the body. Remember to drink especially before, during and after exercise.
- Keep cool Don’t get overheated, especially in the first 3 months. Drink plenty of fluids before and during exercise, wear layers of “breathable” clothing, don’t exercise in hot weather, and don’t use a jacuzzi or sauna.
- Stay comfortable Wear comfortable, cool, and supportive clothing in layers that can be easily removed. Invest in a good sports bra that fits properly and supports your breasts. The right bra will make an incredible difference to your comfort during exercise. Make sure you have comfortable,supportive footwear.
- Make sure you use correct posture when exercising.
- Warm up and cool down slowly and gradually.
- Eat well Be sure you eat an adequate diet that allows you to gain 25 to 35 pounds over your pregnancy. Most pregnant women require an additional 300 calories a day. If you exercise regularly, you may require more. Include plenty of carbohydrates in your diet, as pregnant women use up this fuel source more quickly during exercise than non-pregnant women.
- Keep your balance. Avoid exercises that could cause a loss of balance and avoid activities that require jumping motions or sudden changes in direction. They may strain your joints and injure you – find your balance, and then move.
- Don’t stretch excessively – the hormone relaxin has made all your joints less stable.
- Don’t exercise on your back for more than 30 seconds, or at all if uncomfortable. This position can reduce blood flow to the uterus. If you feel out of breath or uncomfortable when on your back, simply roll on to your left side and relax, breathing deeply. Also, avoid prolonged periods of motionless standing.
- Keep aerobic exercise low impact – jogging is safe but should only be done if you jogged before you were pregnant.
- Yoga is fine, provided your teacher is trained in pre and postnatal instruction. Avoid yoga classes in ‘hot’ conditions and those using ‘power’ moves – and avoid the inverted positions or positions that require spending long periods of time on your back. Don’t stretch your muscles past their pre-pregnancy range of motion (remember relaxin has made your joints more supple, and they shouldn’t be overstretched)
- Avoid some sports altogether. These include activities at high altitudes and those that carry a risk of falling or colliding with somebody or something else, such as horse-riding, climbing, snow and water skiing and scuba diving… use your common sense and don’t take risks!
- Above all, listen to your body, take frequent breaks and only do what feels comfortable!
The above pregnancy exercise advice is intended for women who do not have any additional risk factors. However some medical conditions may lead your midwife or doctor to recommend modifications or abstinence. These conditions are:
When NOT To Exercise During Pregnancy / Contra-indications to Pregnancy Exercise!
The following conditions are contra indications to pregnancy exercises. See the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) for more detailed safety information
- Pregnancy-induced hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Pre-term rupture of membranes
- Premature labour during the prior or current pregnancy or both
- Incompetent cervix (a surgical procedure to close the cervix to keep the foetus intact in utero)
- Persistent second or third-trimester bleeding
- Intrauterine growth retardation
In addition, women with certain other conditions, including chronic hypertension (high blood pressure) or active thyroid, cardiac, vascular or pulmonary disease, should be evaluated carefully in order to determine whether a pregnancy exercise program is appropriate.
Read more on the Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy here.