Most of the cultures will find it strange to recommend exercise during pregnancy. Many Indian families equate pregnancy with 9 months of over attention, complete bed rest and overfeeding. Pregnancy is indeed a life-changing experience for an individual. From the time of conceiving till childbirth, the body goes through a series of mental and physical changes sometimes easy to cope up with and sometimes leads to the reason of stress. Pregnancy is a time of many changes. Your body, your emotions and the life of your family is changing. Therefore, Exercise During Pregnancy is important.
Feeling stressed is common during pregnancy. But too much stress can make you uncomfortable. Stress can make you have trouble sleeping, have headaches, lose your appetite or overeat.
High levels of stress that continue for a long time may cause health problems, like high blood pressure and heart disease. Such type of stress can raise the possibility of having a premature baby or a low-birth-weight baby which can lead to increased risk for health problems.
Physical exercise is an important ingredient for your mental and physical well being, to keep the stress under control and make your pregnancy a healthier experience. Similar to how important exercise is important for Kids, it is as important for Pregnant women.
Is Exercise During Pregnancy Safe?
In general, as in most cases, exercise is safe and recommended during pregnancy. Healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancy do not need to limit their exercise for the fear of adverse effects. Whether you were engaged in physical exercise before pregnancy or not, it is safe to remain active during pregnancy. More than likely your healthcare provider will tell you that you can remain active as long as it is comfortable and there are no other health conditions suggesting otherwise.
Benefits of exercise during pregnancy
There is not just one, but several benefits of exercise during pregnancy.
- Improved aerobic and muscular fitness.
- Reduced back pain during pregnancy.
- Less weight gain,
- Improved digestion and reduced constipation.
- Enhanced maternal psychological well-being that may help counter feelings of stress, anxiety, and/or depression frequently experienced during pregnancy.
- Establishment of permanent healthy lifestyle habits
- Greater energy reserve.
- Reduced postpartum belly.
- Facilitation of recovery from labor.
- Shorter active phase of labor and less pain.
- More rapid return to prepregnancy weight, strength and flexibility levels.
Exercise recommendations for exercise during pregnancy and postpartum.
- Regular exercise (at least 3 times per week) is preferable to intermittent activity with mild to moderate exercise routine.
- Avoid prolonged periods of motionless standing.
- Exercise on a flat, level surface to prevent injury.
- Choose shoes that are designed for the type of exercise you do and that fit properly.
- Finish eating at least one hour before exercising.
- Be sure to wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothes as well as a good supportive bra.
- Avoid exercise in the supine position (lying flat on back) after the first trimester. As this position is associated with decreased cardiac output in most pregnant women.
- You should be aware of decreased availability of oxygen for aerobic exercises during pregnancy hence modify the intensity of aerobic exercise in accordance to maternal symptoms.
- No exhaustion – Pregnant women should stop exercising when fatigued and not exercise to exhaustion. No excess jumping or twisting activities.
- Avoid holding breath for an extended period of time.
- Weight-bearing exercises may under some circumstances be continued at intensities similar to those prior to pregnancy throughout pregnancy.
- No weight-bearing exercises such as cycling or swimming will minimize the risk of injury and facilitate the continuation of exercise during pregnancy.
- Any exercise involving the potential for even mild abdominal trauma should be avoided.
- Pregnancy requires an additional 300Kcal/day to maintain metabolic homeostasis. Thus, women who exercise during pregnancy should be particularly careful to ensure an adequate diet.
- Pregnant women who exercise in the first trimester should augment heat dissipation by ensuring adequate hydration, appropriate clothing, and optimal environmental surroundings during exercise.
- Many of the physiologic and morphologic changes of pregnancy persist 4 to 6 weeks postpartum. Thus, pregnancy exercise routines should be resumed gradually based on women’s physical capabilities.
Which Exercises during Pregnancy Are Beneficial?
Start after consulting your healthcare provider. If you beginner, walking is a great exercise to start with. It is usually safe for everyone, it is easy on your body and joints and it doesn’t require extra equipment.
Squatting during labor may help open your pelvic outlet to help your baby descend, so practice squatting during pregnancy. To do a squat stand with feet shoulder-width apart and slowly lower into a squat position. You should keep your back straight, heels on the floor and your knees shouldn’t protrude in front of your feet. Hold the squat for 10 to 30 seconds; you could rest your hands on your knees. Then slowly stand back up pushing up from your knees with your arms if you need to. Repeat this 5 times working up to more.
Pelvic tilts strengthen the muscles in your abdomen and help alleviate back pain during pregnancy and labor. To do pelvic tilts get on your hands and knees. Tilt your hips forward and pull your abdomen in. Your back should slightly round. Stay in this position for a few seconds then relax without letting your back sag. Repeat a couple of times, working up to 10.
When should you stop exercise and seek medical advice during pregnancy?
- Any signs of bloody discharge or gush of fluid from the vagina.
- Sudden swelling of the ankles, calves, hands or face.
- Persistent severe headaches and or visual disturbance, unexplained spell of faintness or dizziness.
- Elevation of pulse rate or blood pressure that persists after exercise.
- Excessive fatigue, palpation or chest pain.
- Persistent contractions (more that 6-8 / hr)
- Unexplained abdominal pain.
- Insufficient weight gain during the last 2 trimesters.
Physical activity helps manage symptoms of pregnancy. Unless you have complications, it helps building you up physically and mentally to enjoy each moment of your pregnancy. Let your most memorable phase be a pleasant memory. Consult with your doctor, physiotherapist or healthcare professional before starting any new exercise program.