During pregnancy exercise is beneficial to both mother and baby. A safe exercise program will help you maintain general fitness, improve your mood, help manage the discomforts of pregnancy, prepare your body for childbirth and assist your body to return to normal after your baby is born.
Benefits of exercise
There are a number of benefits associated with exercise during pregnancy. Exercise helps to prepare you for the demands of childbirth and the increased physical demands of motherhood as well as providing you with the opportunity to meet other pregnant women other benefits include:
- Maintenance and improvement in general fitness level
- Providing a sense of wellbeing
- Improving muscle strength
- Improving sleep patterns
- Helping to control weight gain
- Reducing constipation
What to look for in an exercise program
An exercise program should be enjoyable, achievable and flexible enough to allow you to modify the regime as needed. If you are starting a new routine you should commence gently and progress slowly.
Some positions and movements will become more difficult and tiring as your pregnancy progresses and changes to the type, duration and intensity of exercise will be required.
Low impact exercises and activities that offer protection to your joints and ligaments are the most appropriate. Targeting the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles is important as these muscles need to remain strong.
Awareness of posture and positioning for exercise is important. During the third trimester it is best to limit exercise when lying on your back and alternate positions are preferred.
Body changes in pregnancy
Increase in body weight
The average weight gain in pregnancy is 10-15kg. This weight gain and distribution of weight affects your balance and coordination. The body’s centre of gravity is moved forward making it easier to loose your balance. Movements and exercises that consider balance and co-ordination are essential.
Hormones such as relaxin affect the ligaments that support your joints and uterus making the ligaments lax. Exercise and activities that stress your ligaments, for example, running, fast change of direction, bouncy or jerky movements, need to be modified.
Your resting heart rate is increased during pregnancy. It is important to monitor how hard you feel you are exercising. The Borg’s Rating of Perceived Exertion sets outs these guidelines. You should feel no strain or shortness of breathe that prevents you talking when exercising.
Your blood pressure drops in the second trimester and can make you feel feint if you change your position or move too quickly. During exercise it is important to move with caution, change position slowly and give your body time to adjust.
Remember to keep in touch with your Obstetrician for ongoing guidance and advice.
Reference: The Wesley Hospital