Exercising during pregnancy
There is no doubt about it – pregnancy is physically demanding! Regular exercise is an essential way of helping your body cope with the increased demands on your joints, muscles, heart and lungs.
Benefits of exercise in pregnancy
- Regular exercise (at the right intensity) can help reduce back pain, improve or maintain muscle tone, reduce leg cramps, swelling and constipation, and improve sleep patterns. Women who exercise regularly often feel better about themselves and their changing body during pregnancy.
- As well as improved fitness, women who exercise are less likely to experience fatigue due to improved sleep, are less anxious and experience reduced pain perception and neuromuscular tension.
Dos and don’ts of pregnancy exercise
Every pregnant woman must take special precautions and considerations with exercise during pregnancy. Some essential guidelines are listed below to help you with a safe exercise program during your pregnancy.
Consult your doctor or midwife
It is important to consult with your doctor or midwife when starting a new exercise program or when continuing with your current exercise program during pregnancy. You should discuss any problems or discomfort to determine if you need to take any special precautions. The type and amount of exercise that you normally do and have done recently will influence the advice given by your doctor or midwife.
Be aware of the effects of pregnancy hormones
Pregnancy hormones soften your joints and ligaments, which may increase the risk of injury during pregnancy. Take care when stretching and avoid contact sports after the first trimester, or on advice of your doctor or midwife.
Watch your posture
Aim to maintain correct form and posture during exercise. Brace your abdominal muscles and be aware of your back at all times. Maintain good posture when standing: stand tall, with your abdominal muscles gently drawn in and your shoulders back, and gently drop your chin. Try to maintain this position regularly during the day.
Ideal exercises during pregnancy (if no complications)
- Low impact aerobics
- Water aerobics
- Pregnancy exercise classes
- Cycling (on a stationary bike)
- Swimming (freestyle not breaststroke)
- Light weight training (see your fitness instructor for assistance with your program)
Exercises to avoid during pregnancy
- Heavy weights
- Bouncing – especially star jumps, or similar activities
- Contact sports
- Any activities or exercises that cause pain
- Excessive twisting and turning activities
- Exercises that require you to hold your breath
- Exercises that involve standing on one leg for a period of time
- Pushing off with one leg at a time when swimming – try to push off with both feet when you turn at the end of the pool
- Excessive breaststroke at the end of your pregnancy, as this puts stress on your pelvis
- Prolonged standing static exercises e.g. standing still and doing arm weights for a long period of time
- Highly choreographed exercises or those that involve sudden changes in direction
- Lifting your hip to the side while kneeling on your hands and knees
- Activities involving sudden changes in intensity
- Exercises that increase the curve in your lower back
- High impact or jerky movements
- Prolonged bouncing, as this can overstretch the pelvic floor muscles
More tips for exercise during pregnancy
- NOTHING should hurt! Exercise should make you feel good, gently increase your fitness and be fun. If any exercise causes pain, stop it immediately or advise the instructor if you are in a class.
Remember that pain or shortness of breath should not be felt at any time. STOP exercising and seek advice from your doctor or midwife if you experience any of the following:
- Dizziness, faintness, headaches, blurred vision, nausea or vomiting
- Any kind of pain or numbness
- Discomfort or feeling extremely tired after you have exercised
- Vaginal bleeding, contractions, leaking of amniotic fluid (the water around your baby), or reduced movements of your baby
For more information download our Pregnancy and Exercise factsheet.
Reproduced with kind permission from thepregnancycentre.com.au