Maintaining an exercise programme raises energy, improves circulation and digestion, encourages your natural production of hormones and strengthens your muscle tone in preparation for conception, pregnancy and birth.
Maintaining an exercise programme raises energy, improves circulation and digestion, encourages your natural production of hormones and strengthens your muscle tone in preparation for conception, pregnancy and birth. Other benefits from pre-natal exercise include decreased risks of a Caesarean delivery, less weight gain during pregnancy and lower blood pressure in women at risk of hypertensive disorders.
Health and fitness experts confirm that exercising regularly is more beneficial than exercising randomly. Regular exercise builds strength and stamina and reduces the possibility of injury.
A balance of cardiovascular exercise, muscle conditioning with particular focus on pelvic floor muscles, combined with yoga postures and Pilates, is a most beneficial approach for pregnant women to tone and prepare themselves for labour, birth and a speedy recovery.
If you work out with a personal trainer, inform him or her of your pregnancy as there are several exercises that may be harmful for you and your developing baby.
These guidelines may be helpful in preparing your schedule:
- Always begin with a warm up and end with gentle stretching exercises and postures.
- Wear comfortable and suitable clothing. Layers are good so you don’t get too hot.
- Drink plenty of water before, during and afterwards. Do not allow yourself to dehydrate, as this can be dangerous for the baby.
- Eat complex carbohydrates before exercising.
- Wear supportive footwear.
- Wear a sports bra. These are designed to allow comfort, support and healthy circulation.
- Go gently with abdominal exercises to avoid separation of the abdominal muscles.
- Remember your centre of gravity is changing and this will affect your balance and co-ordination.
- Choose low-impact, gentle activities. Fitness experts agree that it is not advisable to take up a new sport during pregnancy.
- Rest every fifteen minutes.
- If you are used to regular physical activity or organised sport, consult your doctor or midwife before continuing as usual.
- Decrease the amount of exercise you do as your pregnancy progresses.
- Have saunas or spas.
- Exercise if you feel dizzy, faint or get cramps.
- Lift weights over your head or hold your breath as it increases pressure in the abdomen.
- Exercise lying down for extended periods. From the second trimester, limit exercises that involve lying flat on your back to a three-minute maximum. After 20 weeks, avoid these exercises as the weight of your womb can inhibit venous blood flow back to the heart and cause foetal distress.
- Let your heart rate exceed 140 beats a minute. Exceeding this level can cause foetal distress.
- Allow yourself to become overheated. Your baby’s temperature is always slightly higher than your own though your baby is unable to sweat and overheating can be harmful.
- Exercise to the point of exhaustion.
- Overstretch, as your ligaments are fragile and can easily tear.
- Continue exercising if you experience vaginal bleeding, cramping or contractions, persistent headaches, swelling or decreases in the movement of your baby.
- Exercise if you are expecting twins without medical guidance
- Do high-impact activity or exercise involving repetitive bouncing or jarring movements.
Don’t participate in contact sports, high impact activity and high-risk sports such as off-piste snow-skiing, snowboarding, gymnastics, trampolining, water-skiing, horseriding, bungee-jumping, abseiling and aerobic exercise such as sprinting.
Highly Recommended Exercise During Pregnancy
- Walking is a perfect way to begin exercising. You do not need any equipment and not only is it an effective form of exercise but it is free.
- Yoga is excellent during pregnancy. Make sure you enrol in a pregnancy yoga class. If this is not possible, tell your instructor that you are pregnant if attending a general class.
- Pilates is another highly recommended fitness technique for pregnancy. Always tell your instructor that you are pregnant.
- Antenatal aqua classes provide the comfort and cushioning of water to prevent injury during pregnancy. Many women love the weightless feeling it provides, particularly during the last trimester.
- Belly dancing is one of the oldest forms of preparation for childbirth. The performance originated in the Middle East as a celebration of life, fertility and the life-giving power of women and is believed to prepare the abdominal and pelvic muscles for the birth process. Belly dancing is now being taught around Australia as a safe and beneficial exercise regime throughout pregnancy.
- Swiss balls are an ideal supportive piece of equipment to aid in exercising.