Exercise can be beneficial at almost every stage of your life — but what about during pregnancy? Everything changes when you’re pregnant, or so people keep telling you. Your body shape, diet, and energy levels will all experience a shift, so it’s no wonder your exercise regime must change too.
Is any exercise allowed at all?
In a word — yes. It’s beneficial to you and the baby that you’re active in some way. “As a general rule, all healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies are advised that regular, almost daily, exercise is a critical component of a healthy pregnancy,” Dr. Gregory Davies of Queens University explained to CBS News.
It varies from person-to-person the type of exercise you can do and the intensity to which you can carry it out. If you’re very active, say you’re a runner, it’s more likely you’ll be safe to keep this up than if you don’t run and would like to start during your pregnancy. It may be the case that you’ll be permitted to carry on your routine but to a lesser intensity.
Your body is not the same as your pre-pregnancy self — always be conscious of this.
It’s absolutely imperative that you consult your doctor about continuing with your current pre-pregnancy routine or if you intend to embark on a new regime whilst you’re expecting.
Exercise can be beneficial for you and your baby as it can help to boost your mood and prepare your body for labour. Your sleep should improve with regular exercise and you should see an improvement in your strength and endurance too.
What exercise should I definitely avoid?
For the most part, your exercise routine during pregnancy shouldn’t have to change too much. Following your doctor’s advice you may be able to continue with your sport by making some adjustments and taking stock of how your body feels when you’re working out.
AVOID overdoing it
Your body is not the same as your pre-pregnancy self — always be conscious of this. While pushing yourself is encouraged to boost your skill and endurance under normal circumstances, it should NEVER be attempted when pregnant.
While exercising, check-in with yourself. WebMD recommends that you should be able to sing a round of ‘Happy Birthday’ without running short of breath. If you’re unable to achieve this, it’s likely you’re pushing yourself too much.
Always stop if something hurts or feels uncomfortable. The exercise routine should have you feeling invigorated but not drained and unable to carry out your daily routine.
Ensure you rest sufficiently for around 30 minutes post-workout and that your heart-rate is back to a normal pre-workout rate before continuing your day.
AVOID exercising to lose weight
It’s natural for you to gain weight during pregnancy. Your baby is growing and your body is gaining strength. The amount you’ll put on varies depending on your weight pre-pregnancy. Consult your doctor to find out what’s normal for you and how to keep your weight gain on track.
‘You may gain 25-35 pounds,’ reports WedMD, which may be hard to accept, but it’s vital that you do not try to lose the weight until after you’ve given birth. You should eat well during your pregnancy to ensure you and your baby are getting the nourishment you need.
AVOID standing still for too long
Holding a yoga pose or balancing with weights for a prolonged period can be hazardous for you and your bump. Certain yoga or Pilates poses may reduce blood flow to your uterus or heart. This may make you feel dizzy or nauseous. Yoga can be very beneficial for pregnancy women, but always take caution and keep movements flowing rather than holding poses for too long.
READ MORE: 5 Yoga Poses Perfect for Pregnancy
AVOID laying flat on your back
As your uterus gets heavier, particularly after the first trimester, avoid laying flat on your back. In this position, your uterus can cut off blood flow to your heart, legs, brain and baby, which can make you feel nauseous and dizzy.
Some yoga poses involve lying on your back for a few minutes, which is fine according to WebMD but, as is the case with all yoga poses, avoid holding them for prolonged lengths of time.
AVOID overheating or exercising in hot environments
You’ll feel warmer during pregnancy due to increased metabolic rate and increased blood flow. This will mean your temperature will increase all the more when you exercise. You may feel dizzy and short of breath due to overheating.
Activities such as hot Pilates and Bikram yoga should be avoided, as well as spending time in hot tubs and saunas. Your body can withstand this when you’re not pregnant, however when you’re expecting it can raise body temperature to unsafe levels for you and your baby.
In summer, remember to take exercise in the cool mornings or seek out a gym that has air-conditioning. Drinking plenty of water and wearing loose, breathable clothing will also help to regulate your body temperature.
AVOID dangerous and contact sports
Avoid sports like football and kickboxing that involve a lot of contact and that may risk you getting jabbed in the stomach. Although they’re generally fine in your first trimester, we recommend erring on the side of caution here.
Sports that can throw you off balance and make you more prone to falls, such as horse riding and skiing, should be avoided at all costs. Gymnastics, surfing, and mountain biking, and scuba-diving are also considered dangerous, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
Racquet sports should be avoided as they require balance and sudden changes of movement which can prove dangerous. If you’re experienced in tennis for example, you may be permitted to continue, but if you’re a beginner you may be advised to avoid it until after the birth.
If you are determined to continue with any of these sports mentioned, consult your doctor to discuss whether they can be adapted to suit your body during pregnancy.
AVOID heavy weight training
Heavy weight training can put a lot of stress on your cardiovascular and musculoskeletal system. “When you lift heavy weights, blood flow is temporarily diverted from your internal organs to your muscles. This could prevent nutrients and oxygen from getting to the baby,” explains Dr. Raul Artal, lead author of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ (ACOG) guidelines for exercise and pregnancy.
It’s generally safe to lift up to 30 pounds of weight, since this will not increase your blood pressure too much, according to Women’s Health Mag. However, since pregnancy is different for every woman, ask your doctor’s advice on the right weights for you.
AVOID exercising at a high altitude or in deep water
It may seem unlikely you’ll be exercising in high altitude, but if you do visit any mountain ranges stay below 6,000 ft, advises WebMD. Doing sport in high altitude can reduce oxygen supply to the foetus. You may experience chest pain and shortness of breath and feeling weak, in which case you must seek medical help.
WARNING: If you experience any adverse effects from any form of exercise, inform your doctor immediately.
Severe cramping, dizziness or feeling light-headed, chest pain, swelling, vaginal leakage, and decreased foetal movement are a few of the warning symptoms that you must inform your doctor about.