Exercise during pregnancy
Being pregnant doesn’t mean you have to stop your exercise regime and become less active. According to the NHS, exercise isn’t dangerous for your baby – it is actually believed that the more exercise you do during the pregnancy, the easier your body can adapt to the changing shape throughout and after your pregnancy.
What are the benefits of exercising while pregnant?
Healthcare expert, Bupa states that exercise during pregnancy can relieve a number of symptoms and pains, especially if you suffer from high blood pressure or gestational diabetes. Below are just a few examples of how exercise can help you during pregnancy:
- Reduce tiredness
- Improve your quality of sleep
- Relieve constipation
- Reduce the aches and pains that occur during pregnancy, such as back pain
- Improves your strength and endurance which can help prepare you for labour
- Improves muscle tone, strength and endurance which helps prepare you for labour
- Boosts your mood and general wellbeing which could help to prevent postnatal depression
- Helps prevent and treat gestational diabetes as well as preeclampsia
- Makes it easier for your body to get back into shape after your little one is born
What amount of exercise is safe in pregnancy?
If you exercised regularly before your pregnancy, then you should be fine to continue these activities. However, you may need to reduce the intensity and you should always talk to your doctor or midwife before you start.
As a general rule of thumb, you should never exhaust yourself. If you become breathless or find it hard to talk during exercise, it’s probably too strenuous and you may need to use less force or slow down.
If you weren’t active before you got pregnant, it’s not advisable to take up strenuous exercise immediately. Instead, try a gentle exercise programme such as swimming or aerobics and let the instructor know that you are pregnant.
The NHS suggests starting by doing around 15 minutes of continuous exercise three times a week. Once your body becomes fitter, you can then begin to increase this time to around 30 minutes of exercise, four times a week.
Tips for exercising during pregnancy
- Always warm up before you exercise to ensure your body and muscles are prepared, the same goes with cooling down to minimise any injury or sore muscles
- Try to keep active throughout your pregnancy, whether it’s walking to the shops each day or swimming a couple of times a week
- Avoid any strenuous exercise, especially in hot weather as this can increase your chances of feeling faint or becoming dehydrated
- Always drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
- If you are doing exercise classes, always ensure your qualified teacher is well informed about your pregnancy, including how far along you are
- Pelvic floor muscle exercises can be beneficial during and after pregnancy
Which exercise should I avoid while pregnant?
Most exercise is safe during pregnancy, but there are a few activities you should avoid. The NHS states that you should avoid any exercise that risks you falling or involves contact, such as horse riding or judo when pregnant as falling or being hit may risk damage to you and the baby.
Exercises that bring you deep under water or in high altitudes of above 2,500 metres – such as scuba-diving, mountain trekking and skiing – can also present risks to you and the baby. This is because the baby has no protection against decompression sickness, gas embolism and altitude sickness.
It’s also recommended to not lie on your back for prolonged periods, especially after you pass 16 weeks. This is because the weight of your baby and bump can press on the main blood vessels, which could make you feel faint.
If you experience any of the following symptoms you should stop exercising and contact your doctor immediately, and you may also need to lessen the activity as your pregnancy progresses; contractions, chest pain, dizziness, calf pain or swelling, less movement by the baby, headache, muscle weakness, fluid leaking from your vagina or vaginal bleeding.
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