Exercising during pregnancy is important because the more active you can stay within your pregnancy, the easier it is to adapt to any changes in shape and weight gain. Exercise will also assist with labour and regaining physical status after birth.
Keeping a daily activity routine is ideal: walking, running, dancing, group exercise and sports -providing its non-contact and not high risk. And always ensure the expectant mother stays comfortable. It is safe to continue exercising throughout pregnancy, as long as guidelines are being adhered to and adaptations are being made through each trimester. The best way to seek guidance within this is to ask a fitness professional who is qualified to train pregnant clients.
Labour can be very physically demanding for the expectant mother – almost similar to an endurance event. The more active the expectant mother can stay during her pregnancy, the more prepared she can be for the labour itself. She may have also focused on keeping her muscles strong throughout her pregnancy, which will also assist her in delivery.
Reasons Why Exercise is Important During Pregnancy
As stated by the NHS, exercise is not dangerous during pregnancy to the mother or growing baby, providing that the guidelines are adhered to:
- As a general rule, the expectant mother should be able to hold a conversation while exercising. They may be slightly breathless but not out of breath.
- Exercise to a comfortable level. Work to your own fitness level; however, never work to exhaustion or failure. As the pregnancy progresses, the energy and exertion level may change somewhat and almost certainly slow down in the later stages of pregnancy - this is to be expected.
- Ensure drinks and fluids are taken during exercise.
- High impact and Plyometric exercises are not advised in the later stages of pregnancy due to the growing weight of the baby and the added pressure on the pelvic floor. It can also have a negative effect on joints due to the level of relaxation.
- If attending an exercise class, ensure the instructor is properly qualified and they know you're pregnant and how many weeks.
- Exercises/Sports that have a risk of falling, such as horse riding, downhill skiing, ice hockey, gymnastics and cycling, should only be done with caution. Falls carry a risk of damage to the growing baby.
- Avoid any strenuous exercise in hot weather. The risk of dehydration and overheating increases within pregnancy and can potentially be harmful.
- If you were not active before you got pregnant, do not suddenly take up strenuous exercise. If you start an aerobic exercise programme (such as running, swimming, cycling or aerobics classes), tell the instructor that you're pregnant and begin with no more than 15 minutes of continuous exercise, 3 times a week. Increase this gradually to daily 30-minute sessions. (NHS guidelines)
Avoid These Exercises During Pregnancy
It’s important to remember there are guidelines about what to avoid when exercising during pregnancy. These include: (NHS guidelines)
- Do not lie flat on your back for long periods, particularly after 16 weeks, because the weight of your bump presses on the main blood vessel bringing blood back to your heart and this can make you feel faint
- Do not take part in contact sports where there's a risk of being hit, such as kickboxing, judo, rugby or squash
- Do not go scuba diving because the baby has no protection against decompression sickness and gas embolism (gas bubbles in the bloodstream)
- Do not exercise at heights over 2,500m above sea level – this is because you and your baby are at risk of altitude sickness
The focus of exercise during pregnancy is to maintain the level of fitness that they currently have and use daily activity to contribute to a healthy pregnancy. Additionally, it is to avoid developing any pregnancy related conditions such as Pre-eclampsia.
What is Pre-Eclampsia?
Pre-eclampsia is a condition that affects some pregnant women, typically after 20 weeks. It is a problem with the placenta that usually causes high blood pressure and protein in the urine. If left untreated, pre-eclampsia can be dangerous for both mother and baby.
This condition is more common if the mother had high blood pressure before becoming pregnant, if they had pre-eclampsia in a previous pregnancy, or if there is a family history of the mother or sister of the expectant mother developing pre-eclampsia.
Remaining active and keeping a regular routine of exercise can help with blood pressure issues, unless there are external circumstances as outlined above.
For More Information on a Healthy Pregnancy
To learn more about approaching pregnancy from as healthy and nutritional a place as possible, check out check out How to Maintain a Healthy Diet During Pregnancy our course on prenatal and postnatal health.