There is a lot of contradictory advice available to pregnant women regarding exercise and as you undergo all the various changes to your body and lifestyle, it is often difficult to know if you are doing the right things to really maximise the health of you and your baby. Some of the frequent questions I hear from women in clinic include;
- Should I keep exercising?
- Can I damage my baby by exercising?
- I’ve never exercised before so can I start during pregnancy?
- What sort of exercise should I be doing?
As a result of a lack of, or sometimes too much advice, many pregnant women stop exercising completely, as they are worried they may doing more harm than good to either themselves or their baby.
There has been extensive research into the effects and benefits of exercising whilst pregnant and studies have shown that is not only safe for the Mother and her baby, but it also has many health benefits. These include;
- Reduced depression and anxiety
- Reduced fatigue
- Prevention of varicose veins and swelling
- Reduction of insomnia
- Maintenance and improvement of cardiovascular fitness and healthy blood pressure
- Reduced risk of Gestational Diabetes
- Increased Body Confidence
Furthermore, research has shown that foetuses in exercising mothers may tolerate labour better and experience lower stress levels than those of non-exercising mothers.
In most cases, it is safe for pregnant ladies to continue to exercise throughout their pregnancy, as long as there are no health complications and even women who have never exercised before may start gentle exercise, although it is recommended that they wait until after 13 weeks.
Despite this good news there are several things to be aware of when exercising during pregnancy.
During pregnancy, every system of your body is affected by the release of many hormones, which assist in the development and growth of the baby and prepare your body for feeding and for labour. It is useful to be aware of these changes when exercising, in order to do so safely and to avoid injury. The release of hormones and the growth of the baby changes your posture, shifting your centre of gravity and increasing the laxity of your joints, particularly around the pelvis. This means that you should take care not to overstretch areas of your body when exercising and should choose types of exercise which minimise loss of balance or the risk of falling or impact, eg horse-riding or contact sports.
It is also very important that you do not overheat when exercising. Therefore, you should never exercise for too long or in hot, humid conditions and should always have plenty of water on hand. Exercising lying flat on your back is not recommended after 16 weeks, as the weight of the baby can disrupt blood flow which can lead to light-headedness or fainting.
Although exercising when pregnant is recommended for expectant women in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, exercise programs must always be tailored to suit each individual and their stage of pregnancy. Pregnant women are advised to exercise at a comfortable intensity, being able to hold a conversation as they are exercising, however if you were very fit prior to your pregnancy you may be able to exercise to higher levels.
Exercise may not be suitable for all pregnant women, particularly those with certain health conditions. It is therefore very important that each woman’s health status is assessed thoroughly prior to her engaging in exercise. It is also worthwhile for a pregnant woman to bring her pregnancy notes with her to any exercise session.
Gentle, supervised exercise such as Physiotherapist-led Clinical Pilates is an excellent way of keeping active and mobile during pregnancy, whilst strengthening the pelvic floor and core muscles. Furthermore, if you experience any uncomfortable symptoms whilst exercising, the knowledge of the instructor will ensure that you receive the appropriate onward referral to a medical practitioner if required.
Our Antenatal Clinical Pilates at Enliven Health are small, focused classes that guarantee you will receive the close attention and support that you require when exercising during your pregnancy. Furthermore, f you are experiencing pain from conditions such as Pelvic Girdle Pain or Low Back Pain, you may find that Pilates is very helpful in alleviating your pain. Our classes focus on postural education, core, upper and lower limb strengthening, pelvic floor strengthening and release, breathing work, relaxation techniques and cardiovascular work, all wrapped into a 60 minute class. We supply all mats and equipment, however you are welcome to bring a pillow from home if you wish.
Our next course starts in the New Year! However, if you would like to book in for an assessment or a taster session to see if it’s right for you in the mean-time, please do contact us.
To summarise, don’t be afraid to exercise during your pregnancy! in most cases exercise during pregnancy is safe and beneficial for both you and your baby and expectant women are advised and recommended to continue or initiate exercise during this time.
For further information regarding our Antenatal Clinical Pilates program contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always here to help.