Pregnancy is a beautiful journey that brings about many changes in a woman’s life, including her physical activity routine. Staying active during pregnancy has many benefits, such as improved mood, reduced pregnancy discomfort, and enhanced overall wellbeing.
However, safety should be a top priority for both you and your baby. In this blog post, we’ll explore the importance of staying active during pregnancy, tips for doing so safely, and some suitable exercises to try if you’re expecting
The Importance of Staying Active During Pregnancy
Physical and Emotional Wellbeing
Regular physical activity can help alleviate common pregnancy discomforts, such as back pain, constipation and swelling. Exercise also releases endorphins, which can improve your mood and reduce stress.
Enhanced Strength and Endurance
Maintaining your strength and endurance throughout pregnancy can make labour and delivery shorter, as well as aid in postpartum recovery. Women who stay active during pregnancy have also been found to recover their pre-pregnancy fitness levels more easily after childbirth.
Regular exercise can improve sleep quality and reduce insomnia, which can be especially beneficial during pregnancy when your body needs more energy.
Research indicates that exercise in pregnancy can reduce the risk of unplanned Caesarean section delivery, appropriate weight gain for both mother and baby, and can help in managing gestational diabetes.
Safety Tips for Staying Active During Pregnancy
Maintaining physical activity throughout pregnancy can be beneficial for both you and your baby, but it’s essential to prioritise safety and listen to your body throughout each trimester.
Always consult with your healthcare professional before starting or continuing any exercise routine while pregnant, as they can help provide personalised advice based on your health and gestational stage. The NHS provide great general advice for exercise in pregnancy.
Here are some general tips for staying active safely while you're expecting:
Get Medical Clearance
Before beginning any exercise program, consult your midwife, health visitor or other medical professional. They can assess your overall health and wellbeing, provide guidance on activities that are suitable for you personally, and answer any questions you may have.
Choose Low-Impact Activities
Low-impact exercises are generally safer for pregnant women as they put less stress on your body, joints, and ligaments. Some good options to try include walking, swimming, or prenatal yoga.
Listen to Your Body
Pay close attention to how you feel during exercise. If you experience any pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, or excessive fatigue, stop the activity immediately and rest. As a general rule when exercising during pregnancy, you should be able to hold a conversation – if you become breathless as you’re talking, then it’s likely you’re exercising too strenuously.
Drink plenty of water before, during and after physical activity to prevent dehydration. Dehydration can lead to overheating, and pregnancy can make you already more sensitive to heat as your body needs to work harder to cool down both your body and your unborn baby – exercising in a cool and well-ventilated space can be helpful. Ensure your clothing is loose and breathable, and don’t exercise during the hottest parts of the day.
As your pregnancy progresses, you may need to modify your exercise routine to accommodate your changing body. For example, focusing on balance and stability exercises, and reducing the intensity and duration of your workouts.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
Incorporate pelvic floor exercises (Kegels) into your routine to support your pelvic region, which can help with bladder control and support recovery after childbirth. These exercises can be done anywhere and are essential during pregnancy and postpartum. Learn about your pelvic floor health, and practice techniques to relax and release tension in the pelvic area to reduce discomfort and promote optimal positioning of the baby.
Stop High-Risk Activities
As your body changes and grows, your centre of gravity also shifts, meaning you can be at an increased risk of falling. It’s important to minimise risk throughout pregnancy, so avoid any contact sports, or other physical activities that carry a high risk of falling or injury, such as horse riding. Keep the weights light if you’re doing any strength training, and instead focus on using controlled movements.
Consider joining a prenatal class led by a certified instructor who specialises in working with pregnant women. These classes are tailored to the needs of expectant mothers and offer a supportive community, as well as pregnancy-safe exercises. If you’re attending general exercise classes, be sure to let the instructor know that you are pregnant, and also how many weeks pregnant you are, so they can advise you on any modifications you might need to make to the program.
Safe Exercises for Pregnancy
If you’re looking for ways to be active safely while you’re expecting, you could try a range of different exercises:
- Prenatal Yoga: These gentle stretches and poses can improve flexibility and promote relaxation.
- Swimming: Swimming and water aerobics offer a full-body workout, while minimising the strain on your joints as the water helps to support your body weight.
- Walking: Brisk walking is a fantastic low-impact exercise that you can continue throughout your pregnancy.
- Prenatal Pilates: Modified Pilates exercises can help to strengthen your core muscles and improve posture.
- Stationary Cycling: Riding a stationary bike is an excellent way to improve cardiovascular fitness without the risk of falling.
Staying active during pregnancy is not only safe, but can also be highly beneficial for both you and your baby. By following these safety tips and choosing appropriate exercises, you can enjoy a healthy and comfortable pregnancy. Remember to consult your healthcare provider for personalised advice, and most importantly, listen to your body throughout this beautiful journey into motherhood. Stay active, stay safe, and embrace the joys of pregnancy!