Pregnancy is not your one chance to sit around the couch, munching on chips all day. You may not feel like running a ten mile marathon, but you can keep healthy and active with simple exercises that can bring innumerable benefits for you and your unborn child.
“There is epidemiologic data that suggests exercise during pregnancy is beneficial for the same reasons that pre-pregnancy exercise is beneficial. That is, it aims to improve the health and well-being of the individual,“ says Dr Veronica Ventura, Consultant at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, National University Hospital.
“Exercise, in either a pregnant or non-pregnant individual, helps maintain the cardiovascular system which in turn stabilizes blood pressure and reduces the risk of diabetes. In the pregnant woman this improved cardiovascular state maintains a healthy placental perfusion.”
Strengthen your muscles
With stronger muscles, greater body endurance and increased muscle flexibility, you can battle the rigours of labour more easily. Numerous studies have shown that pregnant women who exercise regularly have shorter labours and experience fewer Caesarean births.
Appropriate exercises can also alleviate common ailments during pregnancy. Bid farewell to backaches, constipation and sleep problems! Additionally, keeping healthy and active increases the blood flow to your skin, giving your face a healthy glow.
If this has not convinced you, exercising also controls weight gain during pregnancy. This means that you can slip back into those sexy dresses with less difficulty after delivery – how is that for an added incentive?
The Exercise Regime
If there are no medical or obstetrical complications, 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day on most, if not all, days of the week is recommended for pregnant women.
“Exercise needs to be individualized. Some women are obviously better able to carry out more strenuous exercise based on the pre-pregnancy level of fitness,” advises Dr Ventura.
Most women who were active can maintain their moderate-level fitness regime throughout their pregnancy. Others who were not exercising regularly before expecting a child should hardly be discouraged. Start gradually and build up strength for the health benefits that exercise brings.
So what kind of exercises can you partake in? Well, it really depends on your interests. Some women enjoy dancing, water aerobics or yoga. If these do not tickle ye fancy, the simplest of exercises can work too – walking. As a low-intensity workout that you can do at your own time and pace, walking is what many expecting mothers seem to opt for. But like what many doctors would advise, do try a combination of cardiovascular, strength and flexibility exercises. As always, consult your doctor before embarking on an exercise regime.
With any exercise, always stop if you feel the following:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Muscle weakness
- Calf pain or swelling
- Vaginal bleeding
- Dyspnea prior to exertion
- Preterm labour
- Decreased foetal movement
- Vaginal bleeding
- Amniotic fluid leakage
It is unhealthy for your foetus’ development if you are overexerting yourself. When your body says “Stop”, listen and take heed. Ensure that your heart rate does not go over 130-140 beats per minute. As a general rule of thumb, if you cannot comfortably carry out a conversation, you should be slowing down. You are not superwoman (but you can surely be a super mom!).
Pregnant women generally require an additional 300 calories a day. Women who exercise more require more nutrition. Additional caloric requirement during pregnancy is, thus, highly variable.
However, just as exercising before pregnancy, eat a high-carbohydrate snack prior to exercise. Some good examples are bagels, juice, nuts or fruit. Also remember to warm up before every exercise. Such stretching prepares your joints and muscles for exercise and prevents strains and injuries. Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after exercise to prevent dehydration.
- Take note of the following no-no’s while exercising:
- When the weather is hot, try not to exercise outdoors. Exercising in hot weather may cause problems in the development of your foetus, especially in the first trimester
- Avoid bouncing, leaping, or any other activity that may cause a lot of up and down movement
- After the first trimester, avoid activities that require lying flat on your back. This position reduces blood pressure and decreases the blood flow to the growing foetus. If you are lying on your back and experience nausea, dizziness or breathlessness, roll to your left side
- Avoid motionless standing. This is associated with decreased cardiac output, and symptomatic giddiness and loss of consciousness
- Do not perform squat exercises. It may cause a separation between the placenta and uterus
- Do not hold your breath while exercising.
- Avoid abdominal exercises as they can lead to strain and injury.
Bear in mind these few guidelines and we are positive you will have a fabulously fit pregnancy.
Also read: Is hot yoga during pregnancy safe?