Our expert says:
Exercise during pregnancy has many benefits to both the baby and the mother. The mother can expect to gain less weight during her pregnancy, have greater energy reserves, a shorter active phase of labour, less prone to gestational diabetes and it will help her recovery from labour quicker. Current research shows that the babyâ€™s born to an active mother have higher AGPAR scores and have healthier birth weights.
First things first, before starting any exercises during pregnancy, medical permission is vital and so I would suggest getting clearance from a doctor or gynaecologist before starting up. This is absolutely critical - you really do need to speak with a doctor as much as possible about this and do it under supervision.
Then, in terms of what to do, it depends a lot on what the exercise routine was like before pregnancy. It's usually safe to just continue with the same exercise routine at a lower intensity if active before pregnancy. If not, then it obviously complicates things a little because there's the dual obstacle of getting fit and the pregnancy at the same time.
HOwever, the key is intensity and most exercises are safe provided they are done at a well-controlled intensity, which usually means take it easy! There are a couple of hotspots or potential problem stages during pregnancy. The first and third trimester are the more risky phases, for different reasons.
What you need to remember is that the baby has a core temperature 1 degree higher than you do, so when you start to push up the intensity too much your core temperature goes up and consequently so does the babyâ€™s. It is therefore also important that you keep cool during exercise wearing loose clothing and drinking lots of water. Also try to exercise in early morning or the evening when it is cooler. This is particularly important very very early on during the pregnancy in the first trimester and so keeping cool and keeping the intensity lower is very important.
You can do most activities in the gym such as cycling, treadmill, stepper and weight training. You will need to however avoid exercises on your back for extended periods or on your stomach. During pregnancy your body produces a hormone called Relaxin, which makes your ligaments lax in preparation for the birth. Therefore it is not advised that you do any jumping or jarring activities, as this will put you at greater risk to injury.
Here are some general guidelines for exercise:
â€¢ Avoid exercises that involve the VALSALVA manoeuvre or holding your breath. This means no lifting of heavy weights which force you to strain or hold your breath.
â€¢ Avoid exercises that involve lying on your back after the 4th month (after the first trimester) as the pregnant uterus may compress the aorta and cause a decrease of blood flow to the fetus.
â€¢ Avoid exercise in which there is danger of loss of balance.
â€¢ Avoid long periods of motionless standing
â€¢ It is NOT recommended that you start an exercise programme in the first trimester if you have been previously inactive.
You will also find that as your stomach gets bigger and your center of gravity changes it will be harder for you to keep your balance in activities that require quick changes of direction such as aerobics.
As your pregnancy progresses and you start to feel more tired you can move your training into the pool and take up swimming or aqua aerobics, which you will find very soothing during the final months of your pregnancy.
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