Pregnancy; after working with many pregnant women I can see that it is an interesting and sometimes very overwhelming time in a woman’s life. So many changes that happen so quickly and out of your control and so many questions, “do I lie on my back?, do I eat sushi?, do I lie on my side?, do I keep exercising?” The last question is one that always comes up in my pregnancy sessions.
There seems to be a global uncertainty within the pregnant community on this topic, and so I thought I might be able to shed some much needed light on this ambiguous subject.
In most cases, the short answer to the question is ABSOLUTLY! Exercise is one of the best things that you can do in order to help with not only your own health, but also for the health of your bub! Undertaking exercise during your pregnancy can help with;
1. Improving pelvic floor strength (helpful for pelvic stability during and after pregnancy)
2. Improving endurance (depending on how keen your bub is to enter the world, you may be required to unwillingly enter a marathon labour)
3. Improving circulation (which can help minimise swelling, varicose veins and improving blood flow to the placenta)
4. Reducing risk of developing gestational diabetes
5. Reducing feelings of fatigue and bloating
6. Improving relaxation and sleep
7. The transfer of endorphins to baby
8. Optimal baby positioning at birth
9. Improving mental wellbeing
…..and the list goes on!!
If you are used to being active, or are wanting to increase your physical activity during pregnancy, it can be tricky to know what is safe and what’s not. There are mountains of books, internet sites and people out there with so much information on what to do (sometimes conflicting) that you could be forgiven for becoming overwhelmed and putting your exercise on the back burner for 9 months.
So. Here are my 6 simple pointers when exercising as a mum to be.
1. Consider your exercise history!!
If you were previously inactive but have decided to exercise during pregnancy, please ensure that you have visited your GP or pregnancy specialist for clearance. Once cleared, you must ensure you start slowly at a lower level and progress gradually. Exercise such as Pilates, swimming and walking are all great go tos! Ladies who have been exercising for a while, continue on! Just be mindful that modification will need to take place (resistance and aerobic exercise in moderation with plenty of rest and time for your body to recover in between days).
2. When exercising…. remember the talk test.
Because of heart rate fluctuations during pregnancy, your heart rate isn’t always a useful assessment of how hard you are working. A good indication of your intensity is the talk test; being able to hold a conversation comfortably while you are exercising. Exercises such as high intensity interval training, sudden changes in intensity or position (netball, tennis), contact sports or exercises where you may hold your breath (weight lifting) should be avoided.
3. Rehydrate and stay cool
This is particularly important for the first trimester of pregnancy because you will be struggling to regulate your temperature. Always wear comfortable clothes (including a sports bra if your planning on doing anything more than meditation). Do not exercise in the heat (or extreme cold) and keep the water up.
4. Water based programs
I find that this is a bit of a grey area. Research shows that there are no adverse effects on the foetus during general water based exercise in pregnancy (such as swimming low-moderate intensity laps, aqua classes or other water based exercise). I will point out a few safety tips though that should be kept in the front of your mind when walking into your local pool.
1. Water temperature: a safe water temperature for you is anything under 32 degrees (so no
more hydrotherapy pools or spas for the time being).
2. Intensity: As with land based exercise, intensity should be low to moderate.
3. Dehydration: Please keep a drink bottle with you at all times as dehydration can occur in a pool without you even knowing it!
4. Safe exit: a sudden drop in blood pressure can occur when you get out of the pool. When leaving the pool, ensure you move from deep to shallow water first and get out slowly.
5. KNOWING WHEN TO STOP….. VERY IMPORTANT LADIES!
Knowing warning signs of when your body has had enough can be crucial for you and your bubs health. Here are some (not all) warning signs where you should stop exercise straight away…
1. Excessive breathing difficulties
2. Chest, pelvic, abdominal or calf pain
3. Excessive fatigue, exhaustion or dizziness
4. Rapid heartbeat
5. Painful contractions or labour
6. Bleeding or leaking of amniotic fluid
7. Swelling in hands or feet
8. Incompetent cervix
If you do experience any of these during exercise, it is a great idea to follow up with an appointment to your GP or medical specialist just to be safe.
6. Enjoy yourself!!
Exercise is really about helping your body to cope with the new demands that being pregnant can place on you … and looking after yourself in the process. It should be enjoyable and fun to both keep you motivated and wanting to come back for more! I find that exercising in a group not only gives you the confidence and motivation to exercise, but also exercising with company means that there are other mums to be who you can socialise with!
So mums, keep that body moving and know that it is safe to do so! Lake Health Group Exercise Physiologist and Pilates Instructor, Jessica Luke.