We all know that exercise is good for us and that ideally, we should be exercising on a regular basis. However many pregnant women are unsure about how they should start or continue with exercise throughout their pregnancy, to ensure their own health and that of their baby, is optimal.
So, what is ‘safe’ and ‘effective’ exercise during pregnancy? And what are the precautions a pregnant woman must be aware of?
This blog present the guidelines and recommendations outlined by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists [RCOG] and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists [ACOG].
The benefits of exercising during pregnancy include;
- Improved sleep
- Reduced risk of Gestational Diabetes
- Reduction in the symptoms of depression
- Helps to control weight gain
- Improves fitness
- Helps reduce high blood pressure
- Lower risk of preterm birth
- Lower risk of C section
- Lower risk of low birth weight of infant
In women who are healthy and have no underlying health conditions the exercise recommendations are;
- Perform 150 minutes of moderate intensity [you should be able to have a conversation whilst exercising] exercise per week
- Exercise can be performed in 10 minute bouts
- Perform 2 sessions of resistance exercise or muscle strengthening exercises per week
- Listen to your body and stop if necessary
- Don’t bump the bump
Pregnancy is deemed to be good time and opportunity to adopt a healthy lifestyle, as long as the pregnant woman is healthy, has been assessed and screened for contraindications to exercise.
However exercise may need to be modified to suit pregnancy and the changes in posture, physiology and soft tissues.
Healthy pregnant women should be encouraged to take part in strengthening and aerobic exercise throughout their pregnancy.
Examples of exercise which have been shown to be safe during pregnancy include walking, cycling, swimming, aerobic exercises, dancing, hydrotherapy and resisted exercises. Exercises which pose a risk to the unborn fetus and should be contra-indicated include horse-riding, scuba diving and contact sports.
There are, some signs that a pregnant woman must be aware of to stop exercise and these include;
- Vaginal bleeding
- Abdominal pain
- Regular painful contractions
- Amniotic Fluid Leakage
- Shortness of breath before exertion
- Chest pain
- Muscle weakness affecting balance
- Calf pain or swelling
These signs and symptoms may be indicative of underlying health conditions and concerns which must be reviewed on an urgent basis by a qualified midwife or medical provider if they occur.
Absolute contra-indications to exercising during pregnancy include;
- Haemodynamically significant heart disease
- Restrictive lung disease
- Incompetent cervix/cerclage
- Multiple gestation at risk for premature labour
- Persistent second or third trimester bleeding
- Placenta praevia after 26 weeks gestation
- Premature labour during the current pregnancy
- Ruptured membranes
- Pregnancy induced hypertension
And relative contra-indications include;
- Severe anaemia
- Unevaluated maternal cardiac arrhythmia
- Chronic bronchitis
- Poorly controlled type I diabetes
- Extreme morbid obesity
- Extreme underweight (body mass index)
If you have any of the conditions listed above it is important that you consult with your midwife or medical provider before commencing exercise during pregnancy.
For further information please visit the RCOG and ACOG websites, or contact us directly to discuss further.