Forget hopes of eating for two and camping out on the sofa for the next 9 months! Exercise during pregnancy is very beneficial to both you and your baby, not only that but being fit and healthy will significantly improve your labour experience – that’s good to be worth a bit of effort, right?! Of course, not every form of sport or exercise is safe to do when you’re pregnant, but many forms are as long as you’ve not been advised against exercise by your GP. We’re going to look some great ways to keep fit and relaxed throughout your pregnancy and beyond….
Yoga and Pilates
These two gentle forms of exercise are great for pregnant women, especially as they include work on your muscles and can improve your suppleness. The relaxation and breathing elements of classes can offer insight and help for labour. There are several antenatal yoga or active birth classes that are specifically designed for pregnancy and birth so discuss the options with you midwife, who is sure to know about classes in your area.
Swimming is great for pregnant women, as the water is very supportive for your bump, supporting your weight whilst also helping your back. Swimming gives your heart and lungs an effective and gentle workout and improves stamina. Many places throughout the UK offer aqua-natal classes so again, ask your midwife for details of classes in your local area.
Walking is a great form of gentle exercise and an ideal way of getting outside and benefiting from some fresh air. If you are not keen walking, try to walk with a purpose e.g. shopping or visiting friends nearby. Walking is fine at any time of your pregnancy, but is most effective during the third trimester, when your added weight gain and change in size often prevents you from doing other forms of exercise. Of course, walking is also free!
Stretching exercises come highly recommended. They’re non-strenuous, can help tone up your body and can help your posture, plus they’re great for teaching you the best ways to bend, stand and sit whilst carrying your baby. It’s important not to over-stretch the muscles, especially during the late stages of pregnancy, so it’s best to take advice from your midwife as to which exercises to do and when.
Massage during pregnancy can help to relieve muscle stiffness, back pain and insomnia. The abdomen are should not be massaged during the first three months of pregnancy, and some practitioners prefer not to treat women during this period. Make sure you chose a treatment and practitioner familiar with pregnancy. There are many forms of massage. Make sure you do your research before picking the best massage for you.
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to treat certain medical problems. In pregnancy, it can help to relieve backache and anxiety. Certain oils should be avoided during pregnancy, such as juniper and myrrh, and others should be avoided for the first three months, such as chamomile and peppermint. Aromatherapy massage should only be carried out by a qualified therapist. When choosing an aromatherapist, you should ensure that they are registered with the Aromatherapy Council.
Acupuncture uses very fine needles inserted at specific places in the body to ease pain and other symptoms. It can be used to treat a range of problems in pregnancy, including morning sickness, constipation and to induce labour. Certain points must be avoided during pregnancy, so it is important to find a practitioner who is a qualified member of the British Acupuncture Council.
During pregnancy, your body goes through significant emotional, hormonal and physical changes. Reflexology, aimed specifically at women during pregnancy, labour and the post-natal period can help to alleviate or prevent discomfort arising from this imbalance and restore the body’s equilibrium. Research has shown that regular reflexology treatments during pregnancy can shorten the duration of labour and many women require less pain-relief.
Always speak to your GP, midwife or health visitor before starting any form of exercise or therapy during pregnancy, and make sure you chose a fully qualified practitioner.