Pregnancy and Exercise: The basics
Can women exercise during pregnancy? Let’s look at the term “exercise”. Walking is one of the best forms of exercise so yes, most women can exercise but with some modifications to their program throughout their pregnancy. Exercise is beneficial to mothers and babies and women who exercise regularly prior to becoming pregnant can continue to do so with some minor modifications. Women who start an exercise program when they become pregnant need to get their doctor’s permission first. Don’t overlook this, it is really important. The first trimester can be a very physically tiring time for a mom due to the energy expended with changes occurring in her body and the development of a baby. You need to listen to your body and rest when you can.
A brisk walk once or twice a week may be all you are able to do and that is more than fine. All moms to be need to avoid exercising in hot, humid environments especially during the first trimester – a time of greatest risk to the developing baby. Avoid saunas and steam baths as these increase your core body temperature. THROW AWAY YOUR HIGH HEELED SHOES and get into flatties. Apart from cutting off the blood flow to your feet, your centre of gravity begins to change and you can overbalance as well as aggravate lower back pain and increase the incidence of sciatica.
You need to avoid pregnancy exercises where you are lying on your back after the first trimester as this can limit the blood flow to your baby. Due to the release of relaxin (a hormone that relaxes the ligaments of the pelvic girdle and abdominals) and progesterone, it is important to avoid deep wide squats, lunges, jumping and activities involving a rapid change in direction. Because of relaxin, don’t overstretch but stretch gently and slowly. Conventional rectus abdominal work is not recommended for pregnancy exercises, as up to 30% of women can get a separation of the abdominal muscles.
Maintain deep abdominal bracing exercises that your trainer or physiotherapist can show you. In the second trimester or the ‘honeymoon period’ many women feel great. You may well be able to change your pregnancy exercise program during this period. During the third trimester most women feel more fatigued with the weight of their growing baby. This is the time for gentle walks, stretching and catching up on some rest.
Things to look out for while exercising during pregnancy
Blood sugar levels can change rapidly in pregnancy, so a good idea is to eat low glycaemic carbohydrates about an hour or two before you exercise. This includes things like an apple, or a banana. If you feel faint or dizzy, slow down or stop exercising and reach for a carbohydrate snack. Make sure you warm up and cool down slowly and always stretch gently. Stop all pregnancy exercise if you experience any of the following:
- Vaginal Spotting or Bleeding
- Joint pain
- Headache, blurred vision or visual
- Abdominal pain
- Low backache
- Sudden escape of fluid from the vagina
- Changes in baby’s movements