As with many aspects of pregnancy- it is a good idea to let your body be your guide on the subject of exercise.
Just a decade ago, vigorous exercise during pregnancy was seen as dangerous to the baby. Pregnant women were told to keep their heart rates below 140 beats per minute. With no evidence to support them, those guidelines have been dropped and doctor’s groups are increasingly pushing pregnant women to get moving.
Physical activity can reduce backaches and constipation, improve mood, energy and sleep, and higher fitness levels help women endure and recover better from labor. It can also help with swelling and fluid retention and improve muscle tone, strength and endurance.
Pregnant exercisers should also make sure to drink enough water, eat enough calories to cover their extra activity, avoid overheating, and stop if they feel any concerning symptoms. Many experts advise a level of exertion that still allows you to hold a conversation.
There is good evidence to show that moderate exercise will reduce many complications in late pregnancy and labour. It is known to reduce the incidence of depression, avoid excess weight gain and reduce the incidence of diabetes of pregnancy. Perhaps more specifically it increases the chances of a normal delivery and reduces the need for emergency Caesarean section and assisted vaginal birth.
Pregnancy can actually be an ideal time to increase and maintain fitness levels, but it is important to recognise that certain sports will be more appropriate than others during this time. Water skiing, scuba diving and contact sports like ice hockey, wrestling and rugby should be avoided!
During pregnancy your body will produce increased amounts of a hormone called Relaxin, which is designed to loosen your joints and muscles in preparation for the impending birth. However, this means that your joints are not as strong as usual and your balance may even be thrown off-kilter, so it is important to bear this in mind when considering doing any exercise.
Swimming and walking are 2 very good forms of exercise that are gentle on the muscles and joints and will minimise the chances of injury. Swimming can be particularly enjoyable in the final trimester as it enables you to feel almost weightless. It has the added benefit of keeping you cool unlike many other forms of exercise.
Whilst all swimming strokes are safe to use whilst pregnant, avoid breaststroke if you have pain at the front of your pelvis in your Pubic Symphysis Joint, as it may make the pain worse.
Whilst we all read about Paula Radcliffe running the Marathon whilst 6 months pregnant, pregnancy is not a time to take up Long Distance Running or Bikram Yoga! But if you are already a seasoned practitioner then there is no reason why you cannot continue certain sports. It is a good idea to discuss your plans for exercise with your Midwife or Consultant.
If you were a runner before you became pregnant, you often can keep running during pregnancy, although you may have to modify your routine.