Exercise During Pregnancy
For most women it’s safe, and in fact beneficial, to exercise throughout pregnancy.
Always take into account your own health and things specific to your pregnancy, and have a conversation with your LMC about the exercise you currently do and what you’re planning. If you’re already fit and exercise regularly you can keep up what you’ve been doing, but pregnancy is not the time to take up an extreme exercise regime – walking daily is a perfect start.
Walking, yoga, Pilates and aqua aerobics are all great to be doing as are some other class sessions on offer at the various gyms around. Always let the instructor know you’re pregnant so they can offer alternative poses or actions during the class (they may not notice your belly if the class is large or you’re hiding at the back of the room).
Remember the effects of relaxing, which will be wonderful in helping your pelvis open on labour day, will also be working on your other joints and ligaments so you are more prone to injury during pregnancy. Take extra care when engaging in activities which require you to turn and adjust quickly such as netball.
Stay well hydrated as this will help your body regulate its core temperature. It’s important you don’t elevate this too much because you don’t want to be heating baby up. Avoid exercising in hot environments e.g. the middle of a summer’s day, and bear this in mind for things like Bikram yoga.
Benefits of exercise in pregnancy:
- You'll develop a strong resilient body ready for the rigours of labour
- You may sleep better - many women find it easier to drift off to sleep, and have a more restful sleep, when they exercise regularly [1,4]
- Some studies have shown that the fitter you are going into labour the shorter and easier your labour may be 
- Reduces stress, thanks to increased levels of serotonin, and lowers your chance of developing antenatal depression 
- You're less likely to suffer from constipation - especially when your diet is also rich in fruit and vegetables, and you're drinking plenty of water each day
- Your risk of developing gestational diabetes will be lowered, and if you do have gestational diabetes you may need lower levels of insulin 
- Pregnancy discomforts may be lessened [2,8]
- Your baby may also benefit - some studies have shown babies whose mothers exercised regularly had better heart health along with neuro-developmental benefits. They were also less likely to be born prematurely.[5,7,9,10]
Listen to your body, make adjustments to your exercise, and modify things if necessary in the third trimester. The fitter you go into labour the easier your labour will be. The fitter you are heading into your early parenting journey, the easier you’ll find the transition. I think we underestimate the endurance required by a labouring woman, and we certainly underestimate the physical and emotional changes taking place after birth, so the healthier you are now the better you’ll cope with the changes and challenges of the coming months.
- Artal R, O’Toole M. Guidelines of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Br J Sports Med 2003;37:6-12; discussion 12.
- Babbar S, Parks-Savage AC, Chauhan SP. Yoga during pregnancy: A review. Am J Perinatol 2012;29:459-464.
- de Barros MC, Lopes MA, Francisco RP, Sapienza AD, Zugaib M. Resistance exercise and glycemic control in women with gestational diabetes mellitus. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2010;203:556.e1– e6.
- Borodulin K, Evenson KR, Monda K, Wen F, Herring AH, Dole N. Physical activity and sleep among pregnant women. Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol 2010;24:45-52
- Clapp JF III. Morphometric and neurodevelopmental outcome at age five years of the offspring of women who continued to exercise regularly throughout pregnancy. J Pediatr 1996;129:856-863.
- Evenson KR, Savitz DA, Huston SL. Leisure-time physical activity among pregnant women in the US. Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol 2004; 18:400-407
- Hopkins SA, Baldi JC, Cutfield WS, McCowan L, Hofman PL. Effects of exercise training on maternal hormonal changes in pregnancy. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf) 2011;74:495-500
- Ji ES, Han HR. The effects of Qi exercise on maternal/fetal interaction and maternal well-being during pregnancy. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs 2010;39:310-318
- May, L. E. (2012). Physiology of prenatal exercise and fetal development. [electronic resource]. New York : Springer, c2012.
- Owe KM, Nystad W, Skjaerven R, Stigum H, Bo K. Exercise during pregnancy and the gestational age distribution: A cohort study. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2012;44:1067-1074
- Shivakumar G, Brandon AR, Snell PG, et al. Antenatal depression: A rationale for studying exercise. Depress Anxiety 2011;28:234-242
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