Believe it or not, but exercise and pregnancy can offer a whole host of benefits from helping to prepare you for labour and delivery, to improving sleep, boosting your energy and preventing pregnancy related conditions like gestational diabetes!
Exercise may be the last thing on your mind when you’re struggling with (what could be perceived as) the pitfalls of pregnancy, such as morning sickness, backache, constipation, bloating and swelling to name a few. However, it can be a great time to get active, get healthy and stay in shape.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the benefits of exercise during pregnancy for both mums and your babies alike!
Benefits of exercise during pregnancy for mums
As many of us are aware, exercise offers an abundance of benefits at whatever stage or age we are in life. And the same applies throughout pregnancy.
The benefits of exercise during pregnancy for mums includes:
- Relieve constipation, bloating and swelling by encouraging active bowels which keeps everything regular.
- Improved sleep. It comes as no surprise that many pregnant women find it much harder to fall asleep, however, those who exercise consistently find their quality of sleep much better.
- Boost mood and energy levels. Exercise during pregnancy can help to reduce depression and fight fatigue by releasing endorphins which are chemicals that relieve stress and pain and boost energy levels.
- Reduce risk of pregnancy complications. Some research and open in a different page tab suggests that women who are active during their pregnancy are less likely to have unplanned caesarean sections and operative-assisted vaginal delivery.
- Shortened Labour. There is evidence and open in a new page tab to support that physically active women will have short labours of approximately 30 minutes.
- Reduced back and pelvic pain. When carrying increased weight, you can expect greater pressure on your lower back and pelvis which can cause aches and pains. Exercise and Pilates, in particular, can help by improving mobility to redistribute forces which in turn alleviate pressure.
Benefits of exercise during pregnancy for babies
Not only does exercise during pregnancy benefit mums, there are also arguments to suggest exercise benefits babies too.
Although most research has been conducted on the long-term effects of exercise of animals, there is evidence to suggest benefits for humans too.
Stronger, fitter heart. Research and open in a new page tab suggests that regular aerobic exercise during pregnancy helped to lower the heart rate of fetuses at 36 weeks. This was further supported by a follow up at 1-month post-birth which found the benefits were still noticeable after birth.
Get the OK before you exercise!
It’s important to get the OK from your doctor or pelvic health physio before starting or continuing with exercise during pregnancy. Whilst exercise is generally good for pregnant women, there may be cases where it is inadvisable.
For example, a doctor or health professional may recommend avoiding exercise if you have:
- Cervical problems
- Placenta problems
- Persistent bleeding during your second or third trimester
- Restrictive heart and lung disease
- Preeclampsia/pregnancy-induced hypertension
- Severe anaemia
Getting started with your pregnancy exercise routine
If you were physically active before pregnancy, you should be able to continue with your exercises at your usual level of intensity whilst you feel comfortable to do so and with your doctor’s approval. We recommend incorporating modifications where appropriate when necessary.
Tips for exercising during pregnancy:
- Pace it out. For most pregnant women, at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise is recommended on most/all days of the week.
- Warm up and cool down before and after exercise.
- Avoid high intensity in hot weather to avoid overheating.
- Drink plenty of fluids to keep hydrated.
- Notify your instructor if you are participating in an exercise or group workout as you will need modifications to exercises.
- Try low impact activities such as swimming, in-door bike and low-impact aerobics.
Exercises to avoid when pregnant
Whilst exercise during pregnancy can be hugely beneficial, there are also exercises you should avoid during pregnancy. These include:
- Avoid contact sports which risk you falling or getting hit such as kickboxing, judo, gymnastics, skiing, outdoor cycling, ice hockey, rugby, diving, ice-skating etc.
- Avoid activities which involve altitude change which heightens the risk of altitude sickness.
- Avoid scuba diving which increases the risk of decompression sickness.
- Avoid activities which involve lying on your back for long periods of time after 16 weeks. The increased amount of weight can compress major blood vessels and restrict circulation around your body which can cause you to feel nauseous, dizzy and faint.
- Exercise in super hot weather which can increase your body temperature significantly.
- Avoid lifting very heavy weights. Although it is subjective as what is considered heavy, it is advised to avoid weightlifting based activities such as Olympic lifting if you are not used to doing these. If you have never lifted gym-based weights before it is also suggested to wait until post-natal to start.
At Complete Pilates
At Complete Pilates, we have a Pilates class specifically designed for pregnant women. Pregnancy Pilates is low impact so it can be done throughout your entire pregnancy. It aims to strengthen your deep muscles, improve your stability, encourages your pelvic floor and helps to prepare you for birth.
If you are interested in our pregnancy Pilates class, our physiotherapists or clinical Pilates instructors will begin with a questionnaire and an assessment to understand any risk factors as well as your goals.
Please, book your Pregnancy Pilates class online or get in touch for more information.