Helping to manage many symptoms of pregnancy, exercise offers physical and emotional benefits for both mother and the unborn baby.
A recent study conducted in the US indicated that mums-to-be who exercise regularly may actually be improving their child’s post-birth heart rate. The study found pregnant women who exercised for a minimum of 30 minutes three times a week had babies with lower heart rates during the final weeks of development, as well as improved cardiovascular control in the four weeks after birth.
Benefits for women who regularly exercise throughout pregnancy include:
- Stronger back muscles – which can help manage back pain and strain as your belly grows
- Improved posture
- Better muscle strength and coordination
- Weight control
- Stress relief
- Reduced fatigue and improved sleep patterns
- Preparation for the physical demands of labour
- Faster recuperation after labour
- Increased ability to cope with the physical demands of your changing shape and motherhood.
- Faster return to pre-pregnancy fitness and healthy weight
So why not take the first steps to a healthy happy mum and bub! You’ll feel better knowing you’re doing something good for yourself and your baby. And don’t sweat it if you’re not a fan of pumping iron on the gym floor. There is such a wide choice of physical activities that are generally safe during pregnancy, even for beginners.
- Cycling – outdoors or on a stationary bicycle
- Cross trainer or rowing machine (take care in 3rd trimester)
- Yoga / Pilates
- Dance classes
- TRX® Suspension Training
- Fitball training / classes
- Specialised pregnancy exercise classes / personal training sessions
Running is not encouraged by many health and fitness professionals (mainly due to the risk of weakening the pelvic floor); But for pregnant women who have been running regularly prior to pregnancy, it’s generally fine to continue with running for as long as comfortable.
Note: After 20 weeks try to modify exercises that involve lying on your back for prolonged periods (the weight of the baby can slow the return of blood to the heart). Instead try lying on your side, rest on your hands and knees in table top position or use a Fitball. In the later stages of pregnancy avoid activities that involve jumping, frequent changes of direction and excessive stretching.
Be guided by your GP, Paediatrician or Midwife, but general cautions include:
- The hormone relaxin will kick in around 18 weeks (but can happen earlier) which makes your joints become more flexible. Bear this in mind when stretching and doing single leg weight bearing exercise.
- Avoid overheating – e.g. don’t exercise on hot or humid days, in rooms without ventilation or fans or in a heated pool.
- If weight training, choose low/med weights and do medium/high repetitions (avoid lifting heavy weights altogether, especially above your head!).
- Don’t exercise if you are ill or feverish.
- If you don’t feel like exercising on a particular day, then don’t! It’s important to listen to your body to avoid unnecessarily depleting your energy reserves.
If you experience any of the following during or after physical activity, stop exercising immediately and see your doctor:
- Dizziness or feeling faint
- Heart palpitations
- Chest pain
- Swelling of the face, hands or feet
- Calf pain or swelling
- Vaginal bleeding
- Deep back or pubic pain
- Amniotic fluid leakage.
- Cramping in the lower abdomen
- Walking difficulties
- An unusual change in your baby’s movements. (Note: With any exercise blood is diverted away from the baby so it will generally sleep at this time – which is normal. Get ready to rock afterwards though. When you’re ready to rest post session bub will most likely wake and want to party!)