What does it mean – exercise during pregnancy!

On one hand, it would not be a good idea to start a new competitive sport or vigorous exercise programme early in pregnancy. Your body is already undergoing enormous changes – changes that affect all the systems of your body. Your heart, lungs, kidney, and virtually every other major body organ is beginning to work much harder, and now may not be the best time to start intensive training. Furthermore, the pregnancy hormones progesterone and relaxin are beginning to have a softening effect on muscles and ligaments – so soft tissue injuries like twists and strains become more likely. Back injuries and abdominal strain are particularly common. Finally, ‘contact’ sports, vigorous team sports, and activities like diving and gymnastics carry the inevitable risk of direct injury to your abdomen and uterus – especially as your uterus grows and rises out of your pelvis.

On the other hand, most exercise instructors agree that there should be no problems continuing with an existing programme of sensible, non-contact exercise – provided you take a few precautions.

Exercise during Pregnancy

Midwife Chantelle Winstanley talks about some of the best exercises mums-to-be can do during pregnancy.

Firstly, most doctors feel that it is best to avoid all but very gentle exercise in the first 12-16 weeks of pregnancy if you have had two or more miscarriages, or have had any vaginal bleeding during this pregnancy. You should also take medical advice if you have a pre-existing condition such as high blood pressure or heart trouble. You may also be advised not to exercise vigorously if you have been pregnant before and there were problems with the baby’s growth.

Secondly, take particular care not to get over-heated during exercise, since getting very hot may effect your baby’s developing nervous system. We’re not talking here about getting slightly warm and a little puffed, but about getting seriously over-heated whilst running or training (or in a sauna or steam bath). It is therefore very important to drink plenty of fluids before, during and after exercise – and to stop before getting too hot or breathless. Stop and rest – or at least slow right down – every 15 minutes or so. Pregnancy is certainly not the time to push your body to its limits or attempt to beat records!

Thirdly, take care with abdominal exercises. If you exercise under the direction of an instructor, do tell him or her that you are pregnant – and follow their advice to minimise the risk of muscle strain or injury.

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.