Many women may be reluctant to exercise during pregnancy, assuming that it could be dangerous to the baby and themselves. Evidence suggests that when exercise is carried out appropriately, women are less like to experience problems during pregnancy and labour, not to mention other benefits during and after birth. Exercise during pregnancy can help:
- reduce backaches
- reduce constipation
- reduce swelling
- prevent or manage gestational diabetes
- increase energy
- improve mood
- improve posture
- improve sleep
- promote muscle tone, strength, and endurance
Consultant surgeon Dr. Serap Mollaoglu from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Memorial Hospital shared some important information, emphasizing the importance of regular walks during the first 3 months of pregnancy. If you weren't active before you got pregnant, don't suddenly take up brisk walking, instead start with light paced walks, on average of 3-5 times per week for about 30 minutes. Prenatal yoga and Pilates are also recommended within the first few weeks of pregnancy. However, make sure your doctor or midwife says that is suitable for you.
Do not exhaust yourself, and as a general rule of thumb, as stated by the National Health Service in England, you should be able to hold a conversation as you exercise when pregnant. If you become breathless as you talk, then you're probably exercising too strenuously (see https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pregnancy-exercise/ for details).
Pilates in Pregnancy
In recent years, Pilates is one of the most preferred form of pregnancy exercises. Some of the benefits include increased flexibility and muscle strength; better mental health; stronger pelvic floor, and reduced back pain. Pilates for pregnant women should be low impact and contain movements to help with core and leg strength, breathing and relaxation, strengthening your pelvic floor and relieving lower back pain. Movements must be gentle and deliberate and allow you to remain cool and comfortable. You may also want to use cushions or blankets to assist you while you go through the movements or poses. Make sure pregnancy workouts are carried out with relevant specialists and professionals.
Yoga in pregnancy
Yoga is a great form of exercise that mainly focuses on mental and physical wellbeing. A series of postures and breathing exercises are made. There are a number of body positions (or postures) that should be avoided. For this reason, you should exercise with experienced yoga tutors specialising in yoga for pregnant women. Look for pregnant yoga classes and find the one that works best for you.
Through yoga, you will be able to make a proper connection between your body and breathing technique, thus helping you to get ready for giving birth. Evidence suggests that yoga reduces anxiety and helps women to stay calm in pregnancy and labour. If you use them during your labour they will help you stay calm and breathe steadily through your contractions.
Dance, have fun!
Dancing in pregnancy, especially belly dancing, strengthens you, increases your flexibility, reduces your stress level and makes you happy. It’s not a bad idea to have fun with your baby, even before birth!
One of the easiest and most effective form of exercise for pregnant women is walking. Without straining yourself too much, walking on a regular basis will ease pregnancy and have a positive impact on your mood.
In addition to walking, yoga, dance and/or Pilates, swimming can also be a preferred option, as it is a form of exercises that enables you to feel your body weight (after weight gain). All exercises carried out in water are highly recommended for pregnant women. The lifting force of water balances the increased body weight of the mother and reduces the risk of injuries and accidents. Swimming also enables the body temperature to be evenly distributed (compared to other exercises). This means that there will be no sudden and rapid changes in the body temperature of your baby. However, the pool must be hygienic and women should be extra careful in wet areas due to risk of falling and slipping.
Have you even been told by your GP, Midwife or any other professional that you should avoid squats during pregnancy? According to research, squats are recommended form of pregnancy exercise as there are many benefits, including an increase in pelvic floor muscle strength, prevents back and pelvic pain, stronger birth positions, and a great looking butt! There are situations where you should avoid squats, especially when your baby is not in an optimal position after 30 weeks; if there is any pain when you perform a squat, and there are medical reasons why you should not be performing this form of a pregnancy workout. Again, always seek professional advice before embarking on this type of a pregnancy exercise.
Typically squats are carried out in the following manner:
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
- Hold your arms straight out in front of your body for balance if you don’t have weights or a bar.
- Lower yourself into a squat position. Only go as far as you’re comfortable while keeping your back straight, weight in your heels, and knees behind or in line with your toes.
- Return to starting position, squeezing your glutes on the way up.
- Perform 3 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.
How long to exercise during pregnancy?
The types of exercise you can do during your pregnancy can be rather restrictive. The amount of time to allocate for exercise is bound to be different compared to a non-pregnant women. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, pregnant women are recommended to lightly exercise for about 30 minutes per day. Even if you cannot do light cardio exercises 7 days a week, anything between 4-6 days should be adequate. Try not to exercise over 30 minutes. Avoid intense exercises that will increase your heart rate and body temperature.
To keep your body temperature at an optimal level, make sure to drink enough water before the exercise, during and after completing your exercise.
Word of caution: always consult your maternity team (doctor and/or your midwife).