Exercise In Pregnancy
As well as helping your body to adjust to the changes imposed by your increasing bump and preparing you for labour, exercise can help you to avoid some of the common problems, such as constipation, swollen ankles, backache, aches and pains, varicose veins and haemorrhoids. Regular fresh air and exercise can also help you to feel better about yourself and can help you to sleep soundly.
Forms of exercise
The aims of exercise during pregnancy are general improvement or maintenance of fitness, increased stamina and improved muscle tone to help you during labour, so you should work on these aspects.
Walking, swimming, cycling, tennis, badminton and jogging all help with stamina, although you may find that your balance is affected after 5 months by the size of your bump. By 7 months, it is unlikely that you will be able to do more strenuous exercise.
Some of the more gentle yoga movements are ideal for improving muscle tone. Special yoga classes for pregnant women and water-based'aqua-natal'exercise classes-may be available in some areas. Always check that the trainer is fully qualified to teach women who are pregnant. When playing tennis or badminton, you may have to resign yourself to being less competitive than before.
If you have not exercised regularly before, you should take it gently at first. Talk to your midwife or doctor, who will be able to suggest an exercise plan. Do not suddenly take up a strenuous form of exercise, such as high-impact aerobics.
Walking, swimming and yoga are all good choices byt, if you feel nauseous or very tired and do not have the energy for formal exercise, aim to get outside every day for a short walk and some fresh air.
If you already do regular exercise, you will usually be able to continue. Tell your midwife that you plan to do so. As your pregnancy progresses, you may need to slowdown.
Exercises to avoid
If you enjoy sports like horse-riding, water-skiing and skiing, or other sports where you might fall, such as squash, you can continue to do so, but you should be aware of the raised risk. Take extra caution cycling (except on an exercise bike firmly fixed to the floor) after week 28 because your growing bump will affect your balance and you might fall off. Pregnancy is not the time to take up an active sport.
For the first 12 weeks, avoid any exercise that makes you overheat. As your bump grows bigger, avoid exercises that involve either lying on your back or standing in one place for long periods, so reducing the blood flow to your baby. Whatever exercise you choose, and whenever you do it, you should not allow your heart rate to go higher than 140 beats per minute.
Although swimming is a great way to take the weight off your bump, do not swim if the water is too cold as you might get cramp. You should also stop swimming or doing aqua-natal exercises once your waters have broken. Also avoid breaststroke if you have symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD).
In the last 12 weeks of pregnancy avoid any high-impact exercise, such as jogging or tennis, that increases the strain on the pelvic floor.
Amount of exercise
It is best to exercise little and often, and to try to get some fresh air at least once a day. Do not exhaust yourself: it is not good for either you or your baby. Nor should you go for the burn when doing aerobics. If you cannot talk easily while you are exercising, you are overdoing it.
Doctors may advise some women with certain conditions to do very little exercise, or even none at all. These include high blood pressure, a recent miscarriage, a threatened miscarriage, a multiple pregnancy or anaemia. If you have any of these conditions, you should always check with your doctor before starting any exercise programme.
You should stop exercising if you notice any of the following effects: breathlessness, feeling faint or dizzy, any bleeding or your baby being unnaturally still (although most do seem to stop kicking while the mother is exercising).