Exercise during Pregnancy
- How much is enough?
- What type of exercise is best?
- What are the advantages of exercise?
- What forms of exercise are harmful to pregnancy?
How much is enough?
Most people view exercise as being a specific physical activity that they engage in over and above their normal daily duties. However, the average woman who has a home to run and perhaps small children to look after, and who may also hold down a job outside the home, engages in a great deal of physical exercise every day.
Pregnancy imposes a certain amount of extra strain on the body, both from a physical and metabolic point of view, so some rest is absolutely vital. Nevertheless, if a pregnancy is progressing normally there is no reason why a woman should not continue with her usual daily duties, as well as her regular exercise programme, if she has been doing this amount of exercise for some time. It is not wise to significantly increase the level of exercise taken in early pregnancy and reduced energy levels may necessitate slowing down somewhat.
If you have any medical problems or develop any complications in pregnancy, your doctor will advise you on changes in your levels of exercise.
A physiotherapist, perhaps at your antenatal classes, can show you a number of exercises specifically designed to strengthen and stretch your spine and legs during pregnancy.
Which type of exercise is best?
Low impact exercise, which increases general fitness is ideal during pregnancy. Two of the best exercises in this category are walking and swimming, but a sensible approach to any form of exercise must be adopted. Making the transformation from couch potato to an hour long class of high-impact aerobics is ill-advised during pregnancy! However, gentle aerobic exercise will maintain a good level of fitness which will make labour and the subsequent busy time with a newborn easier to cope with.
In theory, very few pregnant women have either the inclination or the energy to engage in strenuous physical exercise during pregnancy.
What are the advantages of exercise?
As well as inducing a general feeling of wellbeing, regular exercise helps to maintain a healthy body weight during pregnancy and enables the body to maintain a high level of fitness in preparation for the process of giving birth.
What forms of exercise are harmful in pregnancy?
Horseback riding is not advisable during pregnancy. Other exercises which are contra-indicated during pregnancy include:
- Waterskiing and snow skiing: waterskiing is deemed as being inadvisable during pregnancy as a heavy fall may result in miscarriage or premature labour. Similarly, a heavy fall during snow skiing can have the same consequences. As the pregnancy advances, balance is affected and this can result in accidental injury to those who are experienced at skiing.
- Diving: underwater diving is absolutely forbidden in the later stages of pregnancy, although swimming underwater using a snorkel can still be engaged in.
Saunas are to be avoided in pregnancy as the intense heat of the sauna may cause dilation of the blood vessels which, in addition to the low blood pressure that women experience during pregnancy, may cause the woman to faint. If this shift of blood flow is prolonged, it can result in reduction in the blood supply to the placenta.
Here are a few simple rules to follow when exercising:
- Never exercise if tired; relax.
- Do not hurry an exercise. If you are late, leave it out.
- Never over-exercise or do two sessions in one.
- Avoid undue exertion.
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