15 Tips for Safe Exercise During Pregnancy. by Donna Lohmeyer, Midwife & Fitness Instructor, Sydney Aquanatal
1. Check with your doctor:
Exercise during pregnancy is strongly recommended, but there are some situations where it is not advised. Consult your midwife, doctor or other healthcare professional first to ensure that exercise will benefit you and your baby.
If you normally exercise by yourself, consider joining a group of other pregnant mums. This is fun and has been shown to decrease your risk of post-natal depression.
3. Listen to your body:
Slow down your exercise routine if you are becoming excessively fatigued. Consult your midwife or obstetrician if you experience shortness of breath, chest pain or dizziness whilst exercising. Have a rest day if you don’t feel well and if an exercise hurts in any way, stop immediately. Vigorous exercise, contact sports and activities that carry a risk of slipping or falling are best avoided in pregnancy. Of course, if you are feeling fit and well, and are enjoying your pregnancy exercise routine, then have fun and keep going.
4. Exercise moderately:
Pregnancy is not the time for competitive sports or to set new records. Exercise to maintain fitness and to prepare yourself and your body for the special challenges ahead. It is normal to slow down during pregnancy as hormone levels rise, your body’s centre of gravity changes and energy levels drop a bit. Adapt your routines to fit. Don’t aim to keep up with the gym junkies. You should be able to talk comfortably whilst exercising during pregnancy.
5. Adapt your activity program:
Ensure your fitness instructor is aware of your condition and has the knowledge to modify your routine to suit the different
stages of your pregnancy. Jumping, twisting, bouncing and running should be replaced by fluid, easy, range-of-motion exercises and static stretching. Include pregnancy-specific exercises to strengthen abdominals and the pelvic floor, as well as breathing and relaxation.
6. Do not extend your joints beyond their normal range:
During pregnancy, the
hormone relaxin loosens your joints and ligaments. This makes them more flexible, but also increases the potential for injury. Avoid any movements that jerk, stretch or over-extend the hip, knee ankle or elbow joints.
7. Warm up and cool down slowly:
A long, gentle warm-up routine is especially
important during pregnancy. At the end of your workout, make sure you leave enough time to cool down gently and ask your instructor to show you effective gentle stretches to protect your joints and ligaments. After stretching, use the cool down period to practice your relaxation and pelvic floor routine. Floating in water or gentle swimming are also a great way to relax and take the weight off your spine and back.
8. Focus on good posture:
Correct posture is important at regular times, but
even more so during pregnancy. As the weight of your bump changes your centre of gravity, activities like walking, sitting, bending down and lifting become more challenging. Aim to sit and walk tall. Especially in the later stages of pregnancy, research has shown that Aquanatal™ exercise is particularly beneficial for backache, because targeted exercise in water gives the back muscles a rare chance to relax.
There’s fashion and there’s comfort. If you can
combine the two, great. If you need to make a choice, go for comfort. Wear loose and layered clothing so that you can remove a layer or two as you warm up. Wearing a sports bra for extra support is recommended and essential in the later stages of pregnancy.
10. Strengthen your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles:
and pelvic floor muscles will improve your posture and reduce back ache during pregnancy and after birth. A toned pelvic floor is important for a good recovery after birth and to prevent incontinence. The earlier you can exercise and strengthen these muscles – even before pregnancy – the better. All pregnancy exercise classes should include specific and safe exercises to help you strengthen your core and pelvic floor muscles. However, some exercises such as sit-up’s and crunches should be avoided. Ask your instructor to ensure you do the right exercises and how to do them correctly.
11. Avoid lying on your back:
Tempting as it may be in the later stages of
pregnancy, do not lie on your back. In that position, the weight of the uterus can put pressure on the vena cava, a major blood vessel. This will restrict the flow of blood back to the heart and can cause dizziness, nausea and occasionally even fainting. If this happens, rolling onto your side will relieve the blood vessel and restore proper circulation. All exercises that involve lying on your back should be progressively eliminated as you progress in your pregnancy.
12. Keep your body temperature comfortable:
The fetus is particularly
vulnerable to increased temperatures in the first three months of pregnancy. Avoid raising your body temperature for prolonged periods and reduce your exercise intensity on hot or humid days. In particular, stay clear of hot spas and saunas whilst pregnant. If you are swimming or doing an aquafit class, check the temperature of the water before you start. If it’s on the warm side, make sure you take it a bit easier. Between 28 and 32 degrees is perfect for pregnancy aqua and Aquanatal™. Most physiotherapy/hydrotherapy pools are much warmer – check with your instructor or the pool staff.
13. Drink plenty of water:
Loss of fluid as a result of prolonged exercise or
because you are not drinking enough water will affect your circulation and that of the baby. There is evidence that dehydration may even trigger premature labour. Ensure you have plenty of water to drink throughout the day and especially before, during and after your fitness sessions.
14. Go to the bathroom before exercising:
Exercising with a full bladder is fine
when you’re not pregnant. When you’re pregnant, your full bladder is competing for space with your growing baby. In that competition, the baby always wins. So to avoid ‘accidents’ empty your bladder before you start exercising.
Whilst land-based exercise is fine in early pregnancy, most
women appreciate the tremendous relief that floating weightlessly brings to their spine, joints and muscles. Water provides resistance without straining or jarring your joints, gives you a soothing massage and is great for your circulation. Swimming is great, or you could join an aqua jogging, aqua yoga or aqua fit class. Just make sure that your instructor is familiar with the unique demands of pregnancy and able to adapt the routine for you as your pregnancy advances. The use of buoyancy belts in deep aqua classes is not recommended during pregnancy. If you can, seek out a local Aquanatal™ class. These are specialist classes run by experienced midwives and health professionals where you and your baby are exercising in great company and always in safe hands.
This article may be reproduced freely, providing it is attributed to the author and a back-link to Sydney Aquanatal is included.