Pregnancy Vivian | 28 Oct 2010 12:13 am

Exercising and Pregnancy – Keeping You and Your Baby Safe

Planning for pregnancy and exercise

The best time to start planning your health, weight and exercise program is the same time as you are starting to plan your pregnancy; having a strong, fit and healthy body will not only prepare you for the strength and stamina required during your pregnancy, but it will also increase your chances of conception and an easier pregnancy, labour and birth!

The other reason to start your health, weight and exercise program prior to conception, is that pregnancy is no time to start anything new as it may cause unwanted stress to you and your baby. Any activity you are doing in the 6 months leading up to your pregnancy is generally ok to continue through the term of your pregnancy, however a visit to your Doctor or Obstetrician is always recommended to discuss the appropriateness of your activities and the intensity at which you should be training through the different stages of your pregnancy.

Strength training is now recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and has been associated with:

  • Making pregnancy easier
  • Helping avoid weight gain
  • Decreasing time in labour
  • Making labour easier
  • Quicker recovery after birth
  • Reduces tiredness
  • Better control over body-fat fluctuations
  • Increased strength to perform daily activities during and after pregnancy
  • Strength to cope with the lifestyle changes of a new baby

Exercising during pregnancy

Regular exercise during pregnancy will provide you with many benefits when compared to the alternative – a sedentary pregnancy! Keeping fit and active during your pregnancy will assist in preparing your body for the intensity of labour, will assist in your ability to cope with the physically demanding challenges that motherhood brings with it and will also help you to reach your pre-pregnancy weight much faster.

The types of exercise you choose do both pre-pregnancy and during your pregnancy should depend on the types of exercise that you enjoy doing; if you don’t enjoy what you do, chances are you won’t keep it up for long – especially if you are planning for the 6 months prior to your pregnancy and the 9 months to follow.

Exercises could include:

  • Aqua aerobics or swimming
  • Walking
  • Yoga, pilates or stretching
  • Dancing
  • Cycling (on a stationary bicycle once you are pregnant)
  • Pregnancy exercise classes
  • Strength Training

Personal Training and pregnancy

A great way to keep motivated during your exercise program and to ensure that you are doing the best by your body throughout your journey is to find yourself a personal trainer who is experienced in exercise during pregnancy.

There are many advantages to using a personal trainer as they will be aware of the safety considerations for you and your baby as well as correct technique, nutrition, suitable and practical exercise for the preparation of giving birth and of course, support and encouragement!

In particular, the benefits of having a personal trainer is to start a supervised strength training program in the six months leading up to your planned pregnancy (and from my experience, healthy clients who plan for pregnancy certainly fall pregnant quickly).

Safety considerations for exercise during pregnancy

To ensure that your exercise program provides you with all of the wonderful benefits outlined above, you will also need to ensure your safety and that of your baby, so below is a list of safety considerations to be aware of; and remember to always speak to your Doctor or Obstetrician if you are unsure.

1. Avoid Overheating. Your growing baby does not have the same ability to dissipate heat as you do. To avoid overheating:

  • Avoid prolonged exercise.
  • Stay well hydrated.
  • Do not use sweating as an indicator of how hot you may be getting.
  • Avoid exercising on hot, humid days. Use fans during hot weather.
  • Wear light, loose fitting clothing. Cotton is best.

2. Avoid saunas and steam baths at all times during pregnancy.

3. Avoid high intensity exercise. Studies have indicated that when a mother’s heart rate stays in a range of approximately 140bpm, the foetus has no abnormal responses. To keep exercise intensity at a safe level, follow these guidelines:

  • Change from an intermediate or advanced aerobics program to a lighter paced program.
  • Learn how to measure your heart rate and check it regularly.
  • Be realistic about the need to exercise in moderation.
  • Have a prolonged cool-down after the aerobic portion of the workout.

4. Avoid frequent and prolonged exercise after week 28 of your pregnancy.

5. Limit the amount of exercise that you do lying on your back. This is of particular concern from your second trimester on.

6. Avoid the use of hand weights over 0.5kg in weight during aerobic classes.

7. Perform Pelvic Floor (Kegel) Exercises.

8. Wear a good supportive bra.

9. Avoid rapid changes in direction and be very cautious if you are doing Step exercise classes.

10. Stretch gently.

11. Have a light snack approximately 2 hours before exercise and carry a small carton of fruit juice to your workout.

12. Stop exercise: if at any time during your exercise session you feel very hot, faint, dizzy, short of breath, experience vaginal bleeding, have palpitations, blurred vision, or severe or continuous headaches – stop immediately . It is also important to stop if you experience lower abdominal pain, tightness or cramping, back pain or pubic pain. If you experience any of these symptoms, consult your obstetrician.

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