Exercise During Pregnancy

Regular exercise is an important part of life for many women, and most wish to continue exercising during pregnancy. Some women feel that pregnancy is a good time to start a gentle program. An informed and sensible exercise routine can be enjoyable and beneficial during pregnancy.

A program of back-strengthening exercises for the pregnant woman is desirable as backache is common during pregnancy.

Changes During Pregnancy

The body undergoes many physical changes during pregnancy. These changes affect the way a woman’s body responds to physical activity, as follows:

  • The most obvious changes are increased weight and change of body shape.
  • Throughout pregnancy, the body releases a hormone called relaxin. Relaxin softens the ligaments, allowing the pelvis to expand and preparing it for birth. However, all joints become less stable, and the risk of injury to the joints increases. Strapping or support of a previously injured joint may be helpful.
  • Pregnancy places extra demands on a woman’s heart. More blood is pumped around the body each minute to ensure an adequate supply of oxygen to the baby.
  • Pregnancy hormones can contribute to breathlessness.
  • The body uses carbohydrates more quickly during pregnancy, so more frequent food intake may be necessary.
  • Core temperature of the body rises about 1⁰C during pregnancy. This, coupled with an increase in core temperature during exercise, means pregnant women must be cautious not to overheat.

Exercise Guidelines

  • Drink plenty of water during and after exercise.
  • Be aware of your limitations.
  • Do warm-up and stretching exercises before any vigorous routine.
  • Stop exercising if you start to become breathless or fatigued.
  • Exercise cautiously in hot or humid conditions.
  • To assist cooling of the body, wear clothing that allows evaporation from the skin.
  • Avoid exercising during the hottest or most humid parts of the day.
  • Exercise in a well-ventilated area.
  • Avoid excessively hot tubs, spas and saunas.
  • Do not deep-sea dive beyond three metres underwater or water ski.
  • Do not exercise if you have a fever or feel unwell.
  • After the first 18 weeks of pregnancy, avoid exercises that involve lying flat on your back.
  • Avoid long periods of standing.
  • Exercises that involve sudden movements such as bouncing, jumping or changing direction should be avoided, especially in the third trimester (after 28 weeks).
  • Avoid exercises where it may be hard to keep your balance.
  • Do pelvic-floor exercises. The pelvic – floor muscles support the bladder, the uterus and the intestines.
  • If playing team sports, substitute and rest frequently.
  • Eat nutritious and regular meals.