Congratulations! You’ve found out you’re expecting! Now to try and navigate the wealth of information out there to help make the best decisions for both you and your baby. One of the areas with the most conflicting information is exercise in pregnancy: when can you do it? How much should you do? What type is safe for you and your baby? We are often told one thing by our mothers or family members and something else by our Doctor; but who to believe?
Women’s health is now a highly researched area and new research is evolving year on year. The following blogs aims to provide you with the most up to date information based on Guidelines backed up by scientific evidence, with regards to safe exercise in Pregnancy.
Firstly let's address the question of WHY should we exercise when pregnant? Surely it’s a nice time to kick back and relax and be a little lazy for the next 9 months.
Physically it can aid in weight control during pregnancy, aid the prevention and management of gestational diabetes by lowering blood glucose levels, reduce risk of high blood pressure and pulmonary embolisms, lower incidence of pregnancy related low back pain/pelvic girdle pain, and improve recovery post-delivery. Some studies have even associated a reduced time in 2nd stage labour (the active pushing part) due to improved fitness (1) as well as fewer requests for analgesia (2) and one study even suggests the potential reduction in the need for C section delivery by 15% (3).
Psychological well-being can be enhanced through the release of endorphins that occur during exercise and sleep has been reported to improve in women that remain active versus inactive in pregnancy.
Secondly: What type of exercise should I be doing? As a general rule, continue with what your body is used to (providing it isn’t a high impact sport where there is a risk of a blow to the abdomen or scuba diving where foetal decompression syndrome can occur). Now is not the time to take up kick boxing or running if you have not previously done it! An exception to this rule is pregnancy specific modified sports such as pre-natal yoga and pilates- these can be commenced during pregnancy.
Finally - When should I exercise? You can exercise throughout the duration of your pregnancy (providing it’s a normal, uncomplicated pregnancy and have been given the all clear by your Dr). There is no reason why you cannot exercise for the first trimester or 3rd trimester (as is commonly thought), however there are some things to bear in mind to exercise safely in pregnancy which will be addressed in the next Blog. If you want to know more about how to do safe exercise in pregnancy, we can help!
Schlussel M., de Souza E., Reighenheim M., Kac G. (2008) Phyical activity during pregnancy and maternal-health outcomes: a systematic literature review. Cad Saude Publica. 24: s531-s544
Baciuk E., Pereira R., Cecatti J., Braga A., Cavalcante S. (2008) Water aerobics in pregnancy: cardiovascular response, labour and neonatal outcomes. Reproductive Health. 21: 5
Domenjoz et al. (2014) Effect of physical activity during pregnancy on mode of delivery. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 211(4): 401-411