The body goes through incredible changes during pregnancy. It is easy to lose sight of the need to remain active and exercise throughout that time. Exercise is important regardless of whether you are pregnant or not, and it becomes more important during pregnancy, because of its positive effects on the overall health of a mother and fetus. There are benefits such as the reduction of back pain; easing constipation; decreasing the risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and cesarean birth; promoting healthy weight gain; improving overall fitness and strengthening the heart and blood vessels; and helping in post-pregnancy weight loss. As important as exercise is, there are constraints on what a mother can and cannot do during pregnancy.
Before you begin an exercise regime during your pregnancy, you should speak to your doctor to see if there are risk factors that you are susceptible to that prevent you from exercising. Otherwise, your doctor will probably agree that you should exercise. Your doctor will assess if there are any specific things you need to do or avoid.
Your Premier Primary Care Medicine practitioner recommends dressing comfortably when exercising. The pregnant body needs comfortable clothing to give freedom for the baby and make the pregnancy easier to manage. This is especially true during exercise.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) provides guidelines for pregnancy and the postpartum period. They recommend that exercise be tailored to the stage in which a person’s pregnancy is. This is because a pregnant woman undergoes cardiovascular changes throughout her pregnancy, changes which constrain what is possible.
Broadly, ACOG recommends at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise every week, or 30 minutes a day for 5 days of the week. They also recommend resistance exercises twice a week, with equipment such as bands, kettlebells, and weights. Exercises should be low risk and low-to-moderate in intensity. Movement exercises like yoga are very good for pregnant women. The amount of exercise overall depends on the trimester that a woman is in. For example, in the first trimester, a woman can exercise as much 60 minutes a day, for as much as seven days a week.
Exercises to Avoid
It’s essential to stick to low-risk exercises because you want to avoid anything that could harm you and your baby. The benefits of high risk exercise are greatly outweighed by the downsides. You want to avoid injury at all costs. So, pregnant women should avoid:
- Contact sports such as basketball, dodgeball and football
- Exercises where there’s a risk of falling, such as horseback riding and skiing
- Exercises where there are changes in oxygen levels; such as scuba diving and skydiving
Overall, it’s important to listen to your body and stop any physical activity that is uncomfortable, or feels hurtful. Warning signs include symptoms such as chest pain; dizziness; headaches; vaginal bleeding; regular uterine contractions; sudden, rapid heartbeats during exercise; painful contractions; fainting; vaginal leaking or gushing; calf pain or swelling; unusual shortness of breath; muscle weakness; fetal movement changes; and pain the abdominal area; hips and pelvis.
Some of these symptoms will go away when you take a break, such as dizziness, or muscle weakness. Otherwise, you should speak to your doctor if you experience any of the other warning signs.