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In some countries there are still misconceptions surrounding exercise during pregnancy:  people ask if it is safe to be active, and could exertion potentially harm the baby or cause a miscarriage?   Fortunately, research shows no significant link between exercise and miscarriage, and that women who exercise regularly actually gain many benefits and cope better with childbirth and develop less complications both pre and post-delivery.

Always check with your doctor before exercising if you have any health concerns such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory conditions or are overweight plus anything related to pregnancy such as placenta issues, while symptoms of dizziness, abdominal pain, bleeding, extreme nausea, headaches or contractions should always be followed up. Your physiotherapist can advise you regarding the management of common complaints such as back pain and urinary stress incontinence in addition to devising suitable exercise programmes and classes to support you through each trimester and as the birth approaches.
There are a multitude of benefits to exercise including improved quality of sleep, more energy and better moods, maintenance of good posture, strengthening and endurance of muscles and pelvic floor, better circulation and less joint swelling, reduction of back pain and general pregnancy discomfort and it ultimately helps the mother to cope as her body changes.  An added bonus is exercise speeds up the return to the pre-pregnancy body once the baby is born. Other complications such as diabetes and preeclampsia are also less prevalent.

Consider the following:

  • If you have already been exercising regularly in the gym or other activities it is fine to carry on during the first trimester as long as you have no symptoms develop. If you are just starting to exercise you must take more care and gradually build up activity each day, and not overly exert yourself.  Build up to 30 minutes of low impact activity each day, but start easy and carefully monitor your body’s response
  • During the first trimester, it is safe to lie on your back to exercise, however after this time the pressure of the weight of the baby on veins can affect the return of blood to the heart.  Your physiotherapist can help advise you on alternative positions and options to comfortably work out
  • For general fitness, walking is one of the best and safest options as it is easy to do from home or in the gym, while intensity and time can be easily self-monitored
  • Swimming and water aerobics are a great option too as the water is low impact which relieves the strain on joints, tones muscles, improves circulation and builds cardiovascular endurance
  • Yoga is excellent for reducing stress and tension while the meditation and breathing techniques help prepare for the demands of labour and delivery. It also tones and stretched muscles
  • Cycling is beneficial, however once past the early stages of pregnancy it is recommended to use a stationary bike as it is safer, especially as balance is challenged as the baby bump grows and falls are potentially dangerous
  • Pilates, dancing and low impact aerobics are also options especially in the early stages
  • Classes are also popular including yoga, mat Pilates, general abdominal and pelvic floor toning, Swiss ball exercises and light weights or resistance band training. Many of these exercises can also be performed on an individual basis at home. Through the second and third trimesters exercises, programmes are modified to accommodate changes in each person’s tolerance which can occur from increased weight or tiredness
  • Avoid jumping, bouncing or jarring exercises as the pregnancy hormone Relaxin makes joints looser than usual, therefore more prone to injury. Also avoid high-impact aerobics and contact sports, or activities where falls or abdominal injuries might occur eg. horse riding or volleyball
  • It is sensible to stop exercising when you begin to feel tired rather than waiting for exhaustion; pace yourself each day and build in sufficient rest time in your schedule
  • Ensure you are eating sufficient calories for both the needs of the pregnancy and the additional fitness activities
  • Make sure you remain sufficiently hydrated during and following exercise

Wear loose-fitting clothes in layers for easy removal when getting hot, plus a well-fitted maternity bra and good sports shoes. Warm up well with a gradual increase of pace and intensity of the selected activity for 5-8 minutes and a gentle rise in heart rate, however, don’t exercise in high heat or humidity.

Keep moving to stop blood pooling in the extremities and putting excessive stress on the veins and heart; avoid sustained postures, for example when performing yoga. Get up from the floor slowly to allow blood pressure to optimize and prevent dizziness. Take time to cool down with gentle pregnancy-friendly stretches.
Think about maintaining good posture in daily life: standing, sitting and getting sufficient support whilst lying down. Your physiotherapist can guide you on posture, appropriate exercise, lead group sessions, give advice on common pregnancy issues and treat conditions such as back pain.  
Grab a friend to exercise with to help keep you motivated, and remember that keeping fit means a healthier pregnancy and quicker postnatal recovery!

Author by Prohealth Asia, Feb 20, 2019, Women’s Health


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