Being fit and healthy is always important, but takes on increased significance for those of us planning a pregnancy.
In this article we explain the importance of exercise before, during and after pregnancy, and provide some exercise suggestions, explain how personal trainers can help during this very important phase of life and give some very important safety considerations to note when exercising while pregnant.
Planning for pregnancy
The best time to start planning and implementing our pregnancy health, weight and exercise program is immediately after we’ve decided to try to become pregnant.
Having a strong, fit and healthy body will not only prepare us for the strength and stamina required during our pregnancy, but it will also increase our chances of conception and make for a generally easier pregnancy, labour and most importantly birth!
For those of us who are more than just a little overweight, pre-pregnancy exercise and weight loss takes on extra significance.
Research shows that being significantly overweight during pregnancy has potentially detrimental affects on the health of both the mother and their unborn children.
In addition to helping avoid medical complications associated with being overweight while pregnant, the other reason to start our health, weight and exercise program prior to conception is that during pregnancy is not a great time to start anything new as it may cause unwanted stress to us and our baby.
Exercising during pregnancy
Generally speaking, any activity we are doing in the 6 months leading up to our pregnancy is OK to continue through the term of our pregnancy, however a visit to our Doctor or Obstetrician is always recommended to discuss the appropriateness of our activities and the intensity at which we should be training through the various trimesters.
Regular exercise during pregnancy provides us with many benefits when compared to the alternative – a sedentary pregnancy! Keeping fit and active during pregnancy assists in preparing our body for the intensity of labour, will assist in our ability to cope with the physically demanding challenges that motherhood brings with it and will also help us to reach our pre-pregnancy weight much faster.
The types of exercise we choose to do both pre-pregnancy and during our pregnancy should depend on the types of exercise that we enjoy doing; if we don’t enjoy what we do, chances are we won’t keep it up for long – especially if we are planning to exercise for the 6 months prior to our pregnancy and the 9 months that follow.
Good pregnancy exercises include:
- Aqua aerobics and swimming
- Yoga, Pilates or stretching
- Cycling (on a stationary bicycle once you are pregnant)
- Specially formulated pregnancy exercise classes
- Light strength training
Personal Training and pregnancy
A great way to keep motivated during our exercise program and to ensure that we are doing the best by our body throughout our journey is to find ourself a personal trainer who is experienced in exercise during pregnancy.
There are many advantages to using a personal trainer before, during and after our pregnancy.
As well as providing motivation, encouragement and support, a good personal trainer will be fully versed in the safety aspects of exercising while pregnant and can provide valuable advice on things like nutrition, proper exercise technique, and plan suitable and practical exercises aimed directly at preparing us for giving birth.
If you’re starting to think about starting or continuing to grow your family, I highly recommend that you hire a personal trainer and have them design a tailored strength training program at least six months prior to your planned pregnancy (and from my experience, healthy clients who plan for pregnancy usually fall pregnant quickly!).
Strength training for pregnancy, I hear you ask!
Strength training is now recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and has been associated with:
- Making pregnancy easier
- Helping avoid excessive pregnancy weight gain
- Decreasing time in labour
- Making labour easier
- Quicker recovery after giving birth
- Reduces tiredness
- Better control over body-fat fluctuations
- Increased strength to perform daily activities during and after pregnancy
- Strength to cope with the lifestyle changes of a new baby
Safety considerations for exercise during pregnancy
To ensure that our exercise program provides us with all of the wonderful benefits outlined above, we also need to do whatever we can to ensure our safety and that of our baby, so below is a list of safety considerations to be aware of; and remember to always speak to your Doctor or Obstetrician if you are unsure.
- Avoid becoming overheated.
Growing babies don’t have the same ability to dissipate heat as us. To avoid becoming overheated:
– Avoid prolonged exercise.
– Stay well hydrated.
– Do not use sweating as an indicator of how hot you are.
– Avoid exercising on hot, humid days.
– Use fans during hot weather.
– Wear light, loose fitting clothing. Cotton is best.
– Avoid saunas and steam baths at all times during pregnancy.
- Avoid high intensity exercise.
Studies have indicated that when a mother’s heart rate stays in a range of approximately 140bpm, the foetus has no abnormal responses. To keep exercise intensity at a safe level, follow these guidelines:
– Change to a lighter paced program.
– Start measuring your heart rate regularly.
– Be realistic about the need to exercise in moderation.
– Have a prolonged cool-down after aerobics workouts.
- Avoid frequent and prolonged exercise after week 28 of your pregnancy.
- Limit the amount of exercise that you do lying on your back.
This is of particular concern from your second trimester on.
- Avoid the use of hand weights over 0.5kg in weight during aerobic classes.
- Perform Pelvic Floor (Kegel) Exercises.
- Wear a good supportive bra.
- Avoid rapid changes in direction and be very cautious if you are doing Step exercise classes.
- Stretch gently.
- Have a light snack approximately 2 hours before exercise and carry a small carton of fruit juice to your workout.
- If at any time during your exercise session you feel very hot, faint, dizzy, short of breath, experience vaginal bleeding, have palpitations, blurred vision, or severe or continuous headaches – STOP EXERCISING IMMEDIATELY.
It is also important to stop if you experience lower abdominal pain, tightness or cramping, back pain or pubic pain. If you experience any of these symptoms, consult your obstetrician as soon as possible.
Being fit and healthy is always important, but it takes on increased significance for women planning to get pregnant.
This article explained the importance of exercise before, during and after pregnancy, and provided some suggested forms of exercise that are appropriate, how personal trainers can help and some very important safety considerations to note.