Exercising While Pregnant
In the not too distant past, pregnant women were discouraged from doing any kind of exercise because it was thought that it posed a risk to both baby and mother. In these more enlightened times, however, not only is exercise seen as safe in moderation, it is actually recommended by doctors. Exercise can keep mums-to-be fit, and helps to reduce common complaints that women suffer during pregnancy, such as back problems, water retention, excessive weight gain, gestational diabetes and depression. In addition, it is believed by some that the rocking motion produced by exercising promotes the unborn child's development, especially the sense organs. Mothers who exercised regularly when expecting sometimes report that their new baby is more alert and aware of the world around them. Whether or not this is true, a little exercise of the right kind is good for baby and mum!
But what kind of exercise should you be doing? Well, experts recommend running at least one marathon per week and a triathlon at the weekend – just kidding! (Although some days you’ll probably feel like you’ve done a marathon just being pregnant). Basically, you should look to do moderate aerobic exercise such as walking, cycling or swimming, as well as muscle training exercises such as pilates, yoga, or careful training using light weights. Abdominal workouts are not prohibited, indeed many doctors advise training the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles, but make sure that you take expert advice before doing this during pregnancy. It goes without saying that team sports and potentially dangerous sports such as inline skating, horse riding or climbing, are probably best avoided!
The really important thing is not to over-exert yourself and to make sure that you listen to your body. If you feel at all faint, or in pain, stop immediately and seek help. If you are not someone who exercises regularly, start slowly and build up gradually. If you are already a regular exerciser, don’t be tempted to do the same amount or types of exercises that you would normally do. Either way, it’s a good idea to talk to a qualified instructor to help you to work out a programme. And, of course, always check with your doctor before doing any exercise! During training, you should to be able to hold a conversation without any trouble, so if you find yourself struggling for breath, you should ease off. Also, use a heart rate monitor if you can as this will help you to stay in the ‘safe zone’. Your heart rate should typically be no more than 140 beats per minute, but this can vary from person to person, so once again double check with your doctor if you’re not sure. Always remember to drink enough water both during and after exercise, and to wear breathable clothing for comfort.
Here are a few exercise ideas to think about:
- Walking: Can help prevent water retention in the legs, and the fresh air is a definite bonus for mum and baby!
- Cycling: Can help to strengthen the circulatory system and provides good all round fitness.
- Swimming: Because the water supports you, swimming can relieve the pressure on your legs, back and joints, so it’s a popular way to exercise, particularly in the final trimester. Many pools offer gym or aqua fitness classes specifically for pregnant women, and these are fantastic because they are tailored to deliver exactly the right intensity of workout – why not check if your local gym or pool offers them?
- Yoga: Aids flexibility and strengthens the muscles, especially in the back. Breathing and relaxation exercises are also particularly helpful and you can use them when giving birth too!
Sport after birth
After you give birth, it’s important to do postnatal exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor, the pelvic girdle and the spine. To help them to get fit and lose baby weight, many mums like to jog with their baby in a stroller. If you’re thinking about doing this, do remember that it is not recommended until baby is six months old because younger babies do not yet have sufficiently strong back and neck muscles and the vibrations can potentially be damaging. If you do plan to jog with a buggy, choose a buggy that is designed for this purpose. A Slumbersac travel bag is ideal for keeping baby cosy as you run. It has special vent through which you can fit the harness to keep them warm secure when out and about, and you can also use a travel bag as a normal sleeping in the cot by simply closing the vent with a Velcro flap. With a bit of luck, the motion of your jogging will send them off to sleep, and when you get home you can easily pop the into their cot (still in their sleeping bag) without waking them up – and you can then have a well-deserved post-exercise treat!