“Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?”
I get this question a lot from new moms and the answer is that for most women it is perfectly safe as long as they keep a few common sense guidelines in mind. In fact not only is it safe but it’s a good idea to stay physically active throughout your pregnancy as a recent study in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed. This study looked at moms-to-be who take regular exercise in the first six months of pregnancy and found that they had half the risk of having a premature baby when compared to inactive moms.
Exercise boosts energy, relieves stress, helps with posture, promotes blood circulation and gets your body in good shape for labor. If you have been following an exercise program before your pregnancy you should be able to maintain your fitness by adapting it to your new circumstances. If you have not exercised regularly it’s important that you start very slowly and don’t overdo it.
Here is the advice we give our Yinova Center patients:
Check with your OB
For most healthy, pregnant women, exercise is encouraged but there are exceptions so run your exercise regimen by your OB to make sure that you are not putting your baby’s health at risk.
Don’t get too hot
Now is not the time to take up Bikram yoga! It’s OK to sweat a bit but try not to get too overheated as this can lead to dehydration, raised blood pressure and edema. Pregnant women overheat easily because of their progesterone levels. For this reason its best to avoid saunas, steam rooms and hot tubs too.
Pregnant women release a hormone called relaxin which relaxes muscles and ligaments to make labor and delivery easier. This means that your muscles are extra pliable especially in the second and third trimester. You should be careful not to injure yourself by stretching too much. We usually tell our patients not to hold a stretch for more than 10 seconds.
Don’t overdo it
Its OK to exercise to the point where you are breathing a little heavier, sweating a bit and getting warm but you should still be able to hold a conversation. Exercising to the point of breathlessness means that both you and your baby are not getting the oxygen you need.
Avoid high impact activities and contact sports
Generally we suggest that you don’t jog after the first trimester because the impact puts unnecessary stress on ligaments and can affect the pelvic floor muscles. Swapping jogging for power walking is one way to get the cardiovascular benefits without the impact. Clearly contact sports are a bit of a no-no, so if you like to wrestle or play rugby you may have to take a break. You should also avoid any sport where you could fall such as horse riding or mountain biking.
Avoid exercises that involve laying on your back after the first trimester
This position puts pressure on the vena cava and can affect blood flow to the uterus.
Wear the right kit
Loose, breathable clothes are important to stop you overheating and its a good idea to invest in a well fitting sports bra that will support your breasts and stop your breast ligaments from over-stretching.
Listen to your body
If you do this you will know when you are overdoing it. Do not push through pain or exhaustion. Take plenty of breaks and replenish fluids.
Swimming is a great exercise for pregnant women because the resistance of the water increases the intensity of the exercise without increasing impact and the water supports the uterus. We also suggest finding a good prenatal yoga class. Yoga with an instructor who is trained to work with pregnant women combines relaxation, with deep breathing and gentle stretches which prepare the body for labor. It can also be a good way of meeting other pregnant women.