Exercise in pregnancy
A lot of pregnant women are nervous about exercising when pregnant but exercising during pregnancy has some excellent benefits – it can help to prepare your body for childbirth and can make the birth easier.
It can also help to improve your mood and can lift your spirits, and if you are able, exercise could also help to alleviate some morning sickness symptoms.
Whether you are a regular exerciser or whether you are new to exercise, there are some things you need to remember before exercising during pregnancy.
Tips on exercising when pregnant
- You should always check with your doctors and maternity team to see exactly how much exercise you can do during pregnancy. Every pregnancy is different, so while some women will be able to do lots of exercise, some women will have to rest for the majority of their pregnancy. As a general rule, however, if you exercised regularly before your pregnancy, and you have no complications with the pregnancy, you can continue to exercise as before.
- You should also remember that although it is safe to do some exercise during pregnancy, you should stay away from dangerous sports, such as contact sports or any sports where you run the risk of falling over. Exercises to steer clear of include horse riding, skiing and mountain biking, as well as sports such as basketball and netball. You can cycle in the early stages of pregnancy, although it is best to cycle on a stationary bike as your pregnancy progresses just so that you don’t run the risk of falling off your bike.
- When pregnant, your body increases levels of a hormone known as relaxin. This hormone works to relax your pelvic muscles during childbirth – but throughout the pregnancy, it also relaxes all of your muscles, so your body will be looser and therefore not as strong as it was before pregnancy, making you more susceptible to falls and injuries such as sprains. Therefore, you do need to be a little more careful when exercising than you were before pregnancy.
- The best exercises to do during pregnancy are gentle exercises that help to strengthen and support your entire body. Swimming is a great pregnancy exercise, as the water supports your body and will enable you to exercise without any pressure on any of your joints. Yoga is also good, as it strengthens your entire body and will also help you through the labour. However, just a walk in the park or walking to the shops can help to keep you fit during pregnancy. You could also do gentle dance exercise or exercise on a video game such as the Wii Fit or Xbox Kinect – just make sure you don’t wear yourself out and sit down as soon as you feel tired.
- You also need to keep moving when exercising. If you stay in one place, for example when you lift weights or when you perform yoga poses, this can decrease blood flow to the uterus and can cause blood to pool in your legs. This can make you feel dizzy and nauseated, which is not good for you or your baby. If you keep moving around, this prevents this from happening and will keep you and your baby safe.
- As a general rule, when exercising during pregnancy, you should be able to hold a conversation. If you are out of breath and unable to talk during exercise, then you are more than likely exercising too strenuously. However, just because you are unable to exercise strenuously does not mean that that exercise is not beneficial – any exercise you do will be benefiting you and your baby. You should also always warm up before exercise to lower the risk of straining your muscles and ligaments – skipping this warm up increases your chance of aches and pains following your workout.
- When pregnant, it is important that you wear the right clothes and shoes during exercising. For example, you may need to change your trainers if your feet have swollen during the pregnancy. You also need to make sure you wear a well-fitting maternity bra to support your breasts and loose-fitting, breathable clothing that will allow you to exercise in comfort. You may well have to buy maternity exercise wear, but it will benefit you in the long run.
- When exercising during pregnancy, you also need to make sure that you drink lots of water. When exercising, you sweat, so you lose water. Therefore you need to replenish those water levels, or you run the risk of becoming dehydrated. Dehydration can cause contractions and can raise your body temperature to dangerous levels – so make sure you drink plenty of water before exercising, during exercising, and after exercising. In hot weather, you’ll need to drink even more.
If you are exercising and experience any sudden pains in your abdomen or if you become overly dizzy and sick, stop exercising and seek medical attention as soon as possible.