Why Exercise During Pregnancy?
If you’re an expecting mother, I know that you want the best for both your newborn baby and yourself. Starting or maintaining a safe, suitable exercise routine during pregnancy has so many excellent benefits for both of you that you should definitely know about.
- Roughly 50% of pregnant women will develop aches and pains in their lower back or pelvis. This is due to increased ligament laxity (read more about this below) and also your weight gain, a normal part of pregnancy. The right exercise programme will reduce these aches and pains and can even prevent them from occuring altogether.
- Women who keep up regular exercise throughout pregnancy are likely to have reduced cardiovascular risks compared with women who cease exercise upon becoming pregnant.
- When your pregnant, the clotting factor of your blood increases – you’re more likely to develop blood clots. However regular, safe exercise can reduce this risk.
- Sometimes expecting mothers develop gestational diabetes – a type of diabetes specific to pregnancy – but exercise may help prevent this from occurring and can also help reduce the effects of this condition.
- There is some evidence to suggest that regular exercise during pregnancy results in a healthier baby weight as well as a reduced risk of your baby being delivered pre-term.
- Finally if you keep up the exercise afterward, you’ll reduce your risk of postnatal depression, which can otherwise occur in up to 25% of mothers after giving birth.
What to Avoid – How to Keep You and Your Baby Safe!
It might seem obvious, but you should avoid exercise where there’s a risk of abdominal trauma (basketball, soccer, skiing). You should also avoid activities which put a lot of pressure on your ligaments and joints (racquet sports, gymnatics, horseback riding). As a result of hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy your ligaments are more relaxed, making them less effective at doing their job (which is to support the joints throughout your body)!
Monitor your body temperature – if you’re core body temperature gets too high, it could increase the risk of pregnancy complications. We’re not talking about your skin temperature, we’re talking about the temperature inside you – one of the ways we measure this is with an ear thermometer. Avoid exercising on hot/humid days and if you’re feeling particularly warm, try exercising with a fan nearby. Hot tubs are off limits but, surprisingly, a trip to the sauna is OK as it won’t increase your core temperature significantly. At Flynn Medical Exercise, we’ll monitor your core temperature throughout exercise to ensure it stays below 38.9 degrees centigrade.
Remember to drink lots of water before, during and after exercise even if you don’t feel thirsty! Preventing yourself from getting dehydrated is more important than usual and will also help prevent complications.
How to Exercise – What’s Recommended?
If you don’t exercise regularly but want to start now that you’re pregnant, that’s fantastic! We recommend starting with 10-15 minutes 3-4 days per week. Walking, swimming or cycling on a stationary bike are all good forms of exercise, and light-weight resistance training (free weights or resistance bands) is safe as well. If you want professional guidance with your exercise, you can come for a Medical Health and Exercise assessment (more info) here at Flynn Medical Exercise and we can put together a tailored Exercise Therapy Programme (more info) just for you. All of this will serve to keep you fit, healthy and more comfortable both during and after you become a mother!
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Seán Flynn is the Lead Clinician with Flynn Medical Exercise, and takes patients in their Sandyford clinic.