Keeping Active during Pregnancy
How pregnancy exercise can help you have a more comfortable pregnancy, with fewer complication, smoother labour and faster postnatal recovery. Not only is beneficial for mum but for baby too!
Pregnancy is a very special time for women and it is very important to continue to be exercise moderately and not put their feet up and start easting for two! Pregnancy is not an illness and women that exercise during their pregnancy can enjoy the following benefits:
-Improves circulation which can reduce swelling and ease gastrointestinal discomforts
-Reduces leg cramp-Increases energy
-Helps control weight gain.
-Helps improve moods & self-image.
-Strengthens core muscles to support the growing bump which can help reduce lower back ache
-Able to maintain daily activity level as pregnancy progresses.
-Reduction in perceived pain during labour
-Faster Postnatal recovery
It has been shown that the exercise mums do during pregnancy doesn’t just effect them but their developing babies. Akhavan et al.(2008) found that maternal exercise during pregnancy has a beneficial influence on the development of the foetal brains in rats that they had better memory and learning. E. Labonte-Lemoyne et al (2013) showed this to be true of human babies too and their latest research found that babies who mothers who are exercised during pregnancy had a more mature and more effective brain patterns.
Women that participate in low/moderate exercise during pregnancy have reduced frequency of pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia (PE) and pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH). Regular aerobic exercise during their pregnancy showed lower occurrence of fetal macrosomia (newborn weighing more than 4kg 8.8lbs) and gestational diabetes than those who did not leading to few complications during delivery such as postpartum hemorrhage, Cesarean sections, shoulder dystocia, birth traumas, and the risk of developing obesity and diabetes mellitus later in life at delivery (Tomić et al 2013). Tomic et al (2013) also showed that women who participated in low- and moderate-intensity physical activities didn’t have an increase risk of a low birth weight baby.
Pregnancy Exercise Safety
If you decide to exercise during pregnancy always consultant your doctor or midwife first. During pregnancy many changes occur to the body and these factors should be used to determine choice of pregnancy exercises so that all exercises are safe for the expecting mum and baby.
High impact exercises should be avoided due tyo an increase in flexibility making you more prone to injury and high impact exercsise can put an unnecessary pressure on the pelvic floor.
After 16 weeks no exercises should be preformed lying on the back as the weight of the baby can compress the inferior vena cava returinging blood to the heart which can cause you to feel light headed and sick and limit blood flow to the baby.
Avoid over heating as this can be harmful to the developing fetus especially in the first 12weeks.
Avoid contact sports where there is a risk of being hit and sports where there is a risk of falling such as horse riding, downhill skiing, ice hockey, gymnastics and cycling.
When exercising you should always be able to maintain a conversation. If you can’t talk slow down.
If you feel exhausted after exercising or you don’t feel the benefits then stop what you are doing and discuss with your doctor or midwife as there could be a underlying health issue.
Types of Exercises
There are a range of different exercises women can participate in, something for all fitness levels and all stages of pregnancy. If you don’t like the gym there are specialist pilates & yoga classes and if you find that boring and prefer company there are also specialised pregnancy exercises classes. It is important to check your instructor is suitable qualified – if unsure ask!
Pregnancy pilates can help to support the weight of the growing baby. The core muscles include the deep abdominals – tranvesre abdominus whicha re like a corset aoriund the baby, the deep back muscles, gluteus maximus and the pelvic floor. If these muscles remain strong they can support the pelvis and spine reducing lower back pain. Pregnancy pilates includes exercises to stretch the chest muscles and strengthen the upper back muscles, particular important if you have a desk job or spend a lot of time driving. If the upper back muscles become weakend, they strech and surround muscles tighten trying to support the upper back and this is often a couse of upper back ache.
A key concept in pilates is lateral breathing – breathing into the sides and back of the ribs. This can be beneficial in pregnancy as it helps increase lug capacity and can be benfical if baby is squashing your lungs.
Pregnancy pilates is relaxing and as mum relaxes stress hormones reduce which is good for mum and good for baby. Relaxation techniques can be used during labour to help it progress more smoothly by reducing adrenaline & cortisol (stress hormones) and helps increase endorphins – the bodies natural pain rellivers.
If pilates is too slow for you you can still exercise in the gym and even lift weights (not above the head due to increase in blood pressure) Your programme would need to adapted by a qualified instructor at each trimester to accommodate your changing body. It is important to remember that erxercise during pregnancy is about maintaining fitness and strength not gaining.
During the first 3 months weight training can continue providing moteher listens to her body. As the pregnancy contoues she may find that she needs to decrease the intensity and duration.
Weight bearing exercises like squats and lunges can be very benifical if preformed safely. Maintaing strength in the legs can be beneficial for a more active labour. Squatting is a brilliant position for delivering baby as it creates room in the pelvis and gravity helps baby desend. If you are in the late stages of pregnany and baby is not in aoptimum position deep squats and lunges should be avoid. Baby in the right position and you are due squats and lunges can get things going naturally.
So during pregnancy activity levels should be maintained for mum can have a more comfortable pregnancy and so baby can benefit as research is showing.
The effect of maternal exercise during pregnancy on abnormal fetal growth
Vlatka Tomić,1 Goran Sporiš,2 Jozo Tomić,1 Zoran Milanović,3 Djurdja Zigmundovac-Klaić,4 and Saša Pantelić3