One of the biggest things I have personally experienced through pregnancy, is the amount of people that have been quick to ask me if I am putting my baby at risk with the exercise, I am taking part in.
My answer to them is ‘No, I know my body, I listen to it and adapt, and I exercise so that my body and my baby are healthy and strong’.
Currently 34 weeks pregnant as I write this and exercising 5 days a week plus spending time walking my dog daily. My baby is healthy, I feel physically great!
Historically pregnant women were considered vulnerable and told by their gynaecologists and doctors to reduce their daily activity levels. However, thankfully in 2009 it was recommended that women should be less restricted physically throughout their pregnancies as there is so much benefit to moving around and staying active. Studies have actually now concluded that the benefits of physical activity through pregnancy outweigh the potential risks and therefore strongly advise women to participate in activity daily after consulting with a care provider.
Pregnancy is a lifechanging event for a female and usually a time where we decide to focus on ourselves in a positive way to benefit the little human that is growing inside of us. We adopt many new lifestyle choices such as: giving up smoking, stopping drinking alcohol and caffeine, taking on a healthier diet and also increasing our daily movement. It is the daily movement choices that seem to be the most controversial, due to safety.
So why should we exercise?
It has been concluded that regular exercise during pregnancy has numerous benefits for physical and mental health. The American College of Sports Medicine advises continuing with an existing exercise programme or initiating a new regular exercise programme during pregnancy. Studies have shown that women who continued to exercise during their pregnancies (2-3 times per week), showed to improve or maintain their fitness levels.
Exercise has shown to have positive effects on reducing excessive maternal weight gain during pregnancy and therefore can reduce the risk for developing gestational diabetes. Studies that have looked at using exercise as an intervention in women with gestational diabetes had positive results and the need for using insulin as treatment later on in the pregnancy was reduced.
Exercise has shown to be beneficial when working to reduce cardiovascular disorders and the same is said in pregnancy. It has been demonstrated that there is a lower risk factor for developing hypertension and preeclampsia in pregnancy if the mother remains physically active. Therefore, exercise can be a good preventative measure against the development of these as pregnancy progresses.
Labour is one of the most amazing metabolically demanding process that a women’s body will go through. It is a marathon, and we should prepare our bodies both physically and mentally in positive ways for this. Exercise may reduce the length of labour and some studies have shown it can reduce the need for a C-section. It improves the tone of your deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles helping aid vaginal deliveries.
Exercise is also great for improving mood and reducing feelings of depression. It has demonstrated to benefit feelings of depression during pregnancy.
What should I be careful of?
The good news is because we are so nervous of putting our babies at risk during pregnancy, we are more mindful about the types of exercise we want to be doing and also are more in tune with how our bodies feel as we perform them. We become more in control of our movement than normal and it becomes a very mindful and instinctual process.
The main thing is we want it to be safe and effective and match what is going on physiologically for us at that given time.
A training programme should always be specific to the individual based on their exercise and health history, imbalances they may already have in their muscles or skeletal system and what trimester they are in. For example, if you have never exercised before you do not want to do the same as someone that was exercising 5 days a week before they fell pregnant. It is also important to evaluate how you feel on each day, as what may feel great one day may not be such a good idea the next. Remember we are being mindful!
This is where working with someone who is qualified in this field is so important.
Traditional exercises should change as you progress through your trimesters to fit the adaptations that are happening with your body and you should have constant conversations at the start of a training session with the professional to make sure they know exactly how your body is feeling.
You also need to make sure you stay hydrated and eat the right food before and after training.
Make sure that you do what is comfortable for you, and do not feel pressurised into achieving goals. Your main goal is to stay active in a safe way so that you get all the benefits above and you can look forward to a healthy pregnancy.
I hope you have found this article helpful. For more information please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Gregg & Ferguson (2013) Exercise in Pregnancy Clinics in Sports Medicine.
- Meltzer et al., (2004) Physical Activity: The health benefits outweight the risks. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care.
- Hinmann et al., (2015) Exercise in Pregnancy a clinical review. Sports Health
- Sanabria- Martinez (2019) Effects of physical exercise during pregnancy on mothers’ and neonates’ health: a protocol for an umbrella review of systematic reviews and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. British medical Journal