Regular exercise is an important part of a healthy pregnancy, just as it is outside pregnancy. Many women wish to continue their regular physical exercise when they are pregnant, which should be encouraged. Undertaking regular exercise 2-3 times per week provides physical and psychological benefits. And for women who are not regular exercisers, pregnancy is the ideal time to start.
Benefits of exercise during pregnancy
- Helps maintain a healthy body weight, reducing the risk of developing gestational diabetes
- Helps improve physical fitness, which will be required when running after a new baby!
- Has been shown to improve women’s mood and reduce depression in pregnancy
- Can help improve lower backache, a common complaint among pregnant women
Will my pregnancy affect my regular exercise routine?
Pregnancy brings about natural changes in a woman’s body and physiology.
- The hormone progesterone is known to produce a sensation of breathlessness.
- A woman’s pelvis and joints naturally relax in pregnancy, in preparation for labour and delivery. This can make women more prone to joint injury during high-impact exercise.
- Up to 40% of women experience stress urinary incontinence in pregnancy, which can cause embarrassing urinary leakage during exercise.
- Be careful not to overheat – regular hydration is very important.
What is the best form of exercise in pregnancy?
Most forms of exercise are safe (within reason).
- Non load-bearing exercise, such as swimming, yoga or gentle walking are good for women with back pain or joint issues
- Jogging and cycling are also good forms of exercise
- Martial arts, contact-sports and scuba diving should be avoided
- Don’t forget about pelvic floor exercises!
Are there any situations in which I should avoid exercising altogether?
- Women with preterm contractions or vaginal bleeding should first talk to their obstetrician
- Women with pre-existing high blood pressure should watch excessive physical exercise
- Women with pre-existing cardiac disease should be very careful about exercising while pregnant
- Remember – there is no substitute for common sense. If you are worried, ask your doctor