Keeping fit and healthy during your pregnancy can have many benefits for both you and your baby and will help you to have a good recovery after the birth of your baby. Knowing what you should and shouldn’t do can help you to plan a safe workout and help you to stay active throughout your entire pregnancy. We give you some great tips on how to keep fit. Our Midwife and Fitness experts from our Panel of Experts can also advise you of ways to stay fit and healthy.
Good for you
- You will receive an emotional lift from the release of internal hormones like endorphins
- You will feel more contented, as the release of tranquillising hormones that follows exercise aids relaxation.
- You can improve your self-awareness as you learn how to use your body in new ways.
- Backache, leg cramp, constipation, and breathlessness can be alleviated by regular exercise.
- Your energy level will be increased.
- You will be better prepared for the work of labour.
- You will regain your shape more quickly after delivery.
- You can make new friends by meeting other mums at antenatal exercise classes.
- You can share the exercise routine with your partner or other members of your family.
Good for your baby
- Every time you exercise within your limit, your baby gets a surge of oxygen into her blood that sets her metabolism alight and gives her a real high. All her tissues, especially her brain, function in top form.
- The hormones that are released during your exercise pass across the placenta and reach your baby. At the beginning of exercise, therefore, your baby receives an emotional lift from your adrenaline.
- During exercise, your baby also experiences the positive effect of endorphins, our own natural morphine-like substances, released while exercising, that make us feel extremely good and happy.
- After exercise, endorphins have a profound tranquilising effect that can last up to eight hours and your baby also experiences this.
The motion of exercise is extremely soothing and is good for your baby, as he feels comforted by the rocking movements.
- As you exercise your abdominal muscles exert a kind of massage on your baby that is comforting and soothing.
- During exercise, blood flow is optimum and so your baby’s growth and development proceeds apace with all its benefits.
Ideal Exercises in Pregnancy
- Walking – maintain a good posture while walking and wear a pair of well fitted and cushioned shoes.
- Swimming – the water supports your whole body, so there’s virtually no risk of injury, and you can tone and stretch all over. It’s great for your cardiovascular fitness as well.
- Yoga – This should be gentle and tailored to the pregnant woman. Yoga also has the added benefit of teaching breathing, visualisation and meditation, which are all useful tools during your labour. Take care not to perform any exercises that require you to be on your back for any length of time as this can reduce the blood flow to your uterus and baby. Also, when you’re pregnant the ligaments throughout your body and in your pelvis soften and become more stretchable, under the influence of pregnancy hormones. Trouble is, in pregnancy it’s easier to take the stretching process too far, and end up straining a ligament, especially if you are unused to exercise. Take care!
- Pilates – many Pilate’s studios now tailor classes especially for pregnant women. You will need to take care of your softened ligaments during your Pilates session and never try to push yourself too far. It is claimed that Pilates during pregnancy will strengthen your body and hence reduce back pain, facilitate an easier delivery, and assist in a speedy recovery following birth.
- Pregnancy Exercise Classes – these classes are designed for the pregnant woman to improve your muscle tone, circulation and respiration. They also develop relaxation skills and postural awareness to help prevent injuries before and after delivery. They also provide a great opportunity to meet other “Mums to Be”. You could contact the Australian Physiotherapy Association in your state for locations of specialised pregnancy exercise classes or ask the staff at the hospital or birth centre where you have chosen to deliver.
- Aqua-aerobics – Many pools have aqua-aerobic classes, specially run for pregnant mothers by an exercise specialist, a physiotherapist or a midwife.
- Low Impact Aerobics – Aerobics is fine if you feel comfortable doing it, but stick to low-impact work outs because your joints are extra vulnerable throughout pregnancy. During your pregnancy is probably not the best time to take out a gym membership
Exercises to Avoid During Pregnancy
- Running and Jumping – This type of exercise is very jarring on your whole body. With your ligaments softening due to the pregnancy hormones there is an increased risk of injury.
- Contact Sports – Avoid sports or exercises where there’s a high risk of falling, or rough physical contact with other people. In recent years there was some debate when Netball Australia raised concerns over the safety of its players continuing to play sports while pregnant.
- Heavy Weights – This can cause undue stress on your body due to your ligaments that have softened are now unable to support the strain of lifting heavy weights. If you do have to lift something heavy like a toddler, try to ensure you do this in a controlled way.
- Stomach Crunches or Sit Ups – These are not a good idea during pregnancy as they tend to place further pressure on your already separating abdominal muscles. Always roll onto your side and push up with your arms to get up from the floor or bed
Hints for Exercising Safely
- Check with your midwife or doctor before commencing an exercise routine in your new state of pregnancy.
- Warm up and cool down at every exercise session.
- If you feel faint or dizzy, slow down or stop exercising.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Do not overheat your body. Overheating of the body has been linked to some birth defects.
- Maintain a good posture. Brace your stomach muscles to provide maximum support for your back.
- From midway through your pregnancy you should avoid exercising on your back as it places too much pressure on major veins pumping blood back to your heart and reduces oxygen supply to your placenta and baby.
- Wear a well fitted and supportive bra.
- Always tell your instructor that you are pregnant. Some exercises should not be done while pregnant and can be modified to suit your needs.