Exercise is particularly important during pregnancy, however, to accommodate for your changing body and growing baby, there are a few alterations you may need to make to your exercise regime.
Exercise during pregnancy will help you maintain and improve the physical health of yourself and your baby, with additional psychological benefits. We find that women stop exercising during pregnancy, or decrease levels of activity during pregnancy, but it is important to make time to continue exercise and activity for overall health.
Low to moderate intensity physical activity during pregnancy is recommended by health care providers, and an increased fitness can even aid in coping with labour. Exercise helps to maintain weight, cardiovascular health and can help prevent gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.
There are risks around exercise during pregnancy, such as the increased risk of musculoskeletal pain, so it is important to be guided safely though exercises and potentially have an individualised exercise program from a physiotherapist. There are some contradictions to exercise during pregnancy, so make sure to speak to your pregnancy health care provider at your antenatal appointments regarding whether you have any contradictions or risk factors.
Recommended activity levels
It is recommended that you are physically active 30 minutes a day, 3-5 times a week. It is equally important during your preconception period to aim for those activity levels as well, to support health body systems and future pregnancies.
Is there anything to be aware of during exercise while pregnant?
· If in positions on your back during exercise, placing a wedge, towel or pillow under your right hip is recommended to reduce pressure or preferably, modifying the exercise to avoid the supine position.
· Low to moderate aerobic exercise is recommended, all self-paced and low impact. Exercises such as swimming or water aerobics, Pilates and yoga are popular during pregnancy.
· For weight-based exercises, aim for lower weight and higher reps
· Avoid hot weather so to not dehydrate and add stress to the body.
· Assure good warm up and cool down regimes
· Wear supportive clothing such as maternity sports bras and pregnancy tights
· Ensure adequate nutrition and hydration to match your exercise levels
· Avoid excessive stretching, as your joints will have more laxity and prone to overstretching
· Focus on pelvic floor engagement during exercises – physiotherapy can help you understand how to properly engage your pelvic floor muscles during exercise. This will be particularly important for the postpartum period as well.
If anything feels wrong or abnormal during exercise: stop immediately and seek advise from your health care provider.
Extra benefits: Exercising during pregnancy as mentioned earlier, does indeed help with labour! Appropriate strength training can aid building endurance, that will allow you to sustain labouring positions, such as on all 4’s or in a squat position. Speak with our physiotherapists to find out how to start or continue exercising during pregnancy.