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Exercise during pregnancy


Moderate exercise is generally considered safe in pregnancy provided your pregnancy is progressing normally. Always check with your doctor to make sure that it is safe for you to exercise during your pregnancy. You may have a medical condition that would make exercise harmful to you or your baby. Maintain a regular exercise routine throughout pregnancy can help you stay healthy and feel your best.



Benefits of exercise

Pregnancy may seem like the perfect time to sit back and relax. You may feel more tired, your ankles may be swollen, or your back may ache. Not only can exercise give you more energy and boost your mood, it can actually make your pregnancy more comfortable while giving your baby the possibility of a healthier life. Exercise during pregnancy prepares you and your body for birth.

During pregnancy exercise can:

  • Ease or prevent back ache and other discomforts.
     
  • Regular exercise can improve your posture by strengthening and toning your back muscles.

  • Boost your energy level by releasing endorphins.

  • Prevent excess weight gain

  • Reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, post-partum depression

  • Increase stamina and muscle strength, which helps you prepare for labour.

  • It relieves constipation by accelerating the movements in the intestine.

  • It helps sleep better by relieving the stress and anxiety that might make you restless.

  • It helps prevent wear and tear on your joints which became loosened during pregnancy due to hormonal changes.

  • It helps you regain pre-pregnancy body more quickly.

  • It can help new mothers keep away from pregnancy blues, regain their energy and lose the weight gained during pregnancy.


The following sections are guidelines only and one needs to be driven by common sense when deciding what form of exercise is good for you.



How to start an exercise program

It is best to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. If your doctor approves, you can start exercising at a level that does not cause pain, shortness of breath or excessive tiredness. You may then slowly increase your activity. If you feel uncomfortable, short of breath or very tired, you should reduce your exercise level. If you have already been exercising, it is easier to keep exercising during pregnancy. If you haven’t exercised before, you need to start very slowly.



What types of exercise are best during pregnancy?

For most women, at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise is recommended on most, if not all days of the week. The most comfortable exercises are those that don’t require your body to bear extra weight. Swimming, water exercise, and stationary cycling are good options. Walking and low impact aerobics are usually well tolerated. Always discuss your exercise routine with your doctor to ensure that you are causing no harm to your growing baby in any way.


Precautions:


  • Exercise at a pace that suits you and does not tire you.
     
  • Avoid exercise lying on your back during the second and third trimester.

  • Avoid exercise requiring good balance, especially in the third trimester.

  • Never exercise to the point of exhaustion or breathlessness.

  • Listen to your body. Your body will tell you when you are overdoing and should stop

  • Avoid standing for long periods.

  • Avoid activities that increase your risk of falls or injury, such as vigorous sports.

  • Keep your fluids up during exercise and take frequent breaks.

  • Avoid getting overheated by exercising in the early morning or late evening.

  • Exercise should never be painful or make you feel sick, dizzy or breathless. If any activity causes pain or discomfort, stop immediately.

  • Exercise program should be limited to three or four times a week and kept to a regular pattern of short sessions.

  • Wear comfortable exercise footwear that gives strong ankle and arch support.

  • Stretch before and after each work out

  • Eat a well balanced diet.



Special exercises for pregnancy


Whatever activity you choose, begin with as little as five minutes of physical activity a day. You can gradually add time, until you reach at least 30 minutes a day.  give yourself a break if you feel sick, exhausted.

The pelvic floor exercises are the most important exercises in pregnancy. The weight of the baby places a great strain on the muscles of your pelvic floor. It is important to strengthen these muscles during your pregnancy to prevent tearing in labour, and also after the birth to aid recovery of the pelvic floor area. Exercising your pelvic floor muscles will help to support the weight of the baby and the womb and help control the need to urinate.

Other important exercises include the ones that help to tone up your muscles and improve the suppleness of your joints, making your pregnancy more comfortable and relieving problems like backache. Pilates in pregnancy is also an effective form of exercise.

Walking is one of the safest exercises to do while pregnant. Walking can be continued well into the last month of pregnancy and the pace can be adjusted accordingly. Wear supportive shoes and avoid overheating. Walking is less stressful on the joints and ligaments thus reducing any chances of injuries.

Swimming is one of the best exercises you can do safely while pregnant. There is no impact on the joints, no risk of falling down and very little risk of overheating. But you should avoid deep water swimming or scuba diving as the water pressure can adversely affect the baby.



Contraindications

Exercise is not recommended if you have any of the following conditions:
  • Pre-eclampsia (pregnancy induced hypertension)
     
  • History of preterm labour

  • Heart disease

  • Poorly controlled diabetes

  • Incompetent cervix

  • Placenta previa

  • Persistent second or third trimester bleeding

  • Intrauterine growth retardation


Warning signs
  • Blood or fluid coming from your vagina
     
  • Sudden or severe abdominal or vaginal pain

  • Contractions that go on for 30 minutes after you stop exercising

  • Chest pain

  • Shortness of breath

  • Dizziness and nausea

  • Dim or blurry vision

  • Headache that is severe or won’t go away.

 

Little leaks

The pelvic floor muscles hold the bladder, womb, and lower bowel in place. After having a baby many women find these muscles are weaker than before. This can lead to stress incontinence- you leak a little wee when you cough or laugh, jump or run. To prevent this happening, it’s important to do pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy and afterwards.


Pelvic floor exercises
  • In three stages, gradually tighten the muscles that you use if you want to stop the flow of urine when going to the toilet.
     
  • Try to do it without holding your breath, squeezing your buttocks together, or pulling in your tummy muscles!

  • Hold the squeeze for several seconds and then relax slowly.

  • Now pull the muscles up tight and fast. Then relax. Then tighten them quickly again. This exercise is for the “flick” muscles of your pelvic floor.

Do these exercises several times a day in batches of five or six. You can do them while washing up, watching TV or sitting at a desk. They will help strengthen your pelvic floor if you do them as many times each day as you can remember. It is important to make these exercises part of your daily routine for the rest of your life.



Relax with yoga

Yoga is an excellent way to keep yourself fit and to relax. It is a less impact exercise which can be safely done during pregnancy. Yoga involves breathing techniques which help you cope with labour as you learn to remain relaxed through the contractions.  This can help you reduce stress throughout pregnancy and also gives you a technique for coping with labour. Yoga improves body posture and be aiding flexibility it helps you deal better with aches and cramps. There are classes of yoga specially designed for pregnant women.


Relaxation/breathing techniques:

  • Conserves energy during labour
     
  • Makes contractions more efficient and less painful

  • Help you stay in control and enjoy the experience more

Practise the relaxation techniques from your antenatal classes. If you missed out on these, settle yourself in a comfortable position and concentrate on each breath out. Let your shoulders drop and your body relax. Keep your breathing steady and deep and just feel how your body relaxes.

You may be encouraged to listen to your own breathing, pay close attention to sensations, thoughts and emotions, or repeat a mantra or word to bring about a state of self-awareness and inner calm.

Breathing techniques: when you are tense, your breathing becomes shallower and your chest feels tight. You may start to feel panicky and light-headed. In labour, you want to avoid this happening and ensure that you and your baby have a steady supply of oxygen. During your pregnancy, start to become more aware of your breathing patterns. Whenever you feel tense, notice what’s happening to your breathing. Then take a deep breath, sigh out and relax.

Try to become aware of where the tension in your body accumulates. The neck, shoulders, forehead, and hands are common places leading to aches, pains and stiffness. Check your tension points regularly during the day. If you are tensing up, take a deep breath and relax the muscles as you breathe out. Use breathing techniques to help you cope with difficult situations-at home, work, or hospital. You will be encouraged to focus on breathing in and out slowly and deeply through the nose. These techniques may help you reduce or manage shortness of breath during pregnancy and work through contractions during labour.


Gentle stretching: You'll be encouraged to gently move different areas of your body, such as your neck and arms, through their full range of motion.

Postures: While standing, sitting or lying on the ground, you'll gently move your body into different positions aimed at developing your strength, flexibility and balance. Props — such as blankets, cushions and belts — may be used to provide support and comfort. You'll also continue to focus on your breathing.

Cool down: At the end of each prenatal yoga class, you'll relax your muscles and restore your resting heart rate and breathing rhythm. You'll be encouraged to sit down and gently stretch different parts of your body.

 

 

 



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