Exercising when pregnant is highly recommended if there are no contra-indications. And you should exercise early on as soon as you have planned to become pregnant and not just when your pregnancy test announces your pregnancy. It will maximize your chances of giving birth to a healthy beautiful baby and a normal vaginal delivery.
It not only benefits you (pregnant mother-to-be) but also your unborn baby. Just as the right pregnancy foods and pregnancy nutrition are a must, so is exercise during pregnancy. The benefits to both mother and the baby are tremendous.
Your body feels more comfortable, you tolerate the pain of labor more easily and recovery from labor is much faster than if you had not exercised.
The most commonly recommended exercises are walking, swimming, stretches and yoga.
How much to exercise during pregnancy?
The College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends exercises of moderate intensity during pregnancy.
It should be a regular affair with a 30-minute session every day starting from the time you decided to become pregnant.
You should continue the exercises throughout the three trimesters of pregnancy and well into the postpartum period. You should, however, wait for six to eight weeks after giving birth for the healing to complete.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advocate 2.5 hours a week of moderate aerobic activity like brisk walking in a healthy pregnant woman during pregnancy and postpartum period.
Do not start with 30 minutes if you have not exercised in a while. Build up those minutes gradually over time.
You could start with 5 to 10 minutes’ session alternate days a week and increase gradually to 20 to 30 minutes 5 days a week and if possible to seven days a week.
However, it is strongly recommended that you consult your doctor before starting your pregnancy exercises for reasons explained below in this post.
When you should not exercise during pregnancy? Contraindications
Just as exercises assure you of a healthy pregnancy and baby, there are certain conditions, when you should not exercise when pregnant. These conditions are risks to the completion of pregnancy and exercises will only add to the risk.
- Any pregnant woman who has a medical condition such as heart disease, high blood pressure, lung disease such as asthma.
- Vaginal bleeding or spotting
- Severe anemia
- Woman with a history of miscarriage or premature delivery
- Placenta previa is a low placenta (placenta situated low in the uterus close to the cervix). Acute blood loss can occur
- Weak or incompetent cervix
- Multiple pregnancies (like twins)
Safety guidelines for pregnancy exercises | Dos and don’ts.
Due to an increase in weight during pregnancy and in the abdominal girth, there is a shift of the center of gravity of the body. This can cause you to lose balance and fall.
Pregnancy exercises, therefore, should always be done by exercising caution and under the advice of your doctor. Here are some safety guidelines, which you should follow.
- Wear loose and comfortable clothing when exercising with a good supportive bra.
- Wear shoes that support your ankle and arch and designed for exercises you are doing.
- Always warm up and start exercising gradually.
- Exercise on a firm flat surface. This will reduce the risk of injury.
- After exercise get up slowly to prevent dizziness.
- Take frequent breaks.
- Do not hold your breath for a long time.
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) strongly recommends avoiding contact sports such as hockey or football where you can come in contact with a co-sportswoman as this can cause you to fall and injure your abdomen.
- Drink water or healthy fluids before, during and after exercises to prevent loss of fluids due to perspiration. By healthy fluids, we mean fresh fruit juices or coconut water. Avoid aerated drinks.
- Do not eat for two hours before starting your exercise.
- Do not exhaust yourself and become breathless by exercises. If you huff and puff and find it difficult to talk, then you have definitely exhausted yourself.
- Do not do strenuous exercises. When you exercise, more blood circulates to the lungs, heart and the muscles. The blood flow to the internal organs including the uterus and the baby is reduced. You must, therefore, monitor your heart rate and stay within the recommended level to make sure that the uterus and the baby are not deprived of blood supply and oxygen.
- Do not do exercises in hot weather to avoid overheating your body especially in the first trimester.
- Do not lie on your back for too long as this reduces blood flow to the uterus especially during the 2nd and 3rd trimester.
- Do not bend backward.
- Do not raise your feet above hip level.
- Avoid bouncing at all times. No skipping, please
- Do not stretch your joints too much for fear of injury/tear to ligaments.
- Watch for these danger signs. Stop exercising if you experience
- a headache
- abdominal pain,
- chest pain,
- vaginal bleeding,
- leg pain,
- pelvic contractions,
- premature rupture of membranes
- shortness of breath.
Why is caution necessary during pregnancy exercises?
Pregnancy does cause physical changes in your body, which require certain precautionary measures. These changes are explained below.
- Your developing baby and the uterus require extra blood, nutrition, and oxygen.
- Due to increase in weight during pregnancy and increase in abdominal girth, there is a shift of the center of gravity of the body, which increases the risk of fall and trauma.
- During pregnancy, your body produces a hormone called relaxin, which causes the ligaments that support the joints to stretch and the joints to relax. This increases the risk of injury.