Benefits of exercise during pregnancy
There are a number of proven benefits of exercise during pregnancy including:
Maintain / Improve Flexibility
Maintain / Improved Strength and Tone
Helps Control Weight Gain
Happier Healthier Mummy and Baby
Blood Pressure Kept Under Control
Reduced Chance of Gestational Diabetes and Exercise Helps Gestational Diabetes Keep Under Control
Reduce Aches and Pains
Most exercises are safe to do during pregnancy as long as you take the right precautions and do not over do things. It does not put you at risk of miscarriage if the safety precautions are taken but you do need to consult your doctor before starting any exercise. As there are some conditions which would require extra precautions. Some experts actually recommend exercise to lower risk of miscarriage and make the mum and baby happier and healthier.
SAFEST CARDIO CHOICES
At least 30-45 mins or moderate-intensity exercise recommended on most if not all days of the week. Some great examples during pregnancy are below.
indoor static cycling
elliptical/cross training machines
low impact workouts with an instructor knowledgeable of working with prenatal clients
Strengthening and toning exercises with an instructor knowledgeable of working with prenatal clients
Using Breathing And Heart Rate As Your Indicator Of Safe Intensity
It is fine to exercise so that you breathe a little more deeply and your heart beats faster but not so hard you cannot hold a conversation or you are gasping for breath.
The heart rate for you to aim for when doing aerobic pregnancy during your pregnancy depends on how fit you are before becoming pregnant but the below table gives a guide
SAFEST TONING AND STRENGTHENING CHOICES
Even if you have not done any strengthening or toning exercise before becoming pregnant it does not mean that you cannot start when you are pregnancy
Just make sure that the weights you use start super light and increase the weight very gradually – seek help from a prenatal or postnatal trainer or physio if would like more guidance on this type of exercise
WHICH SIGNS MEAN TO STOP THE EXERCISE I AM DOING?
What activity you are doing and at what ever trimester of pregnancy you are in make sure you stop immediately if you feel any of the following symptoms:
Unable to catch your breath
Dizziness or light headedness
Tightening contractions in your tummy
Irregular beating of your heart (palpitations)
Vaginal bleeding or spotting
Pain or swelling in lower part of your leg
Pain in your tummy or pelvis that does not ease
You feel exhausted or unusually weak
WHO SHOULD TAKE PRECAUTIONS DURING PREGNANCY
There are certain medical conditions that you need to be wary or such as asthma, heart disease of diabetes. Make sure to be given clear instructions by your medical provider on how much exercise you can do in these cases.
If you have pregnancy related conditions such as:
Bleeding or spotting
Weak or low lying cervix
Threatened or recurrent miscarriage
Previous premature births or history of early labour
It is definitely advisable to seek the guidance of a trainer with experience in prenatal and postnatal exercise preferably a physio trainer.
10 TOP TIPS TO STAY SAFE WHEN EXERCISING DURING PREGNANCY
Remember the Health2mama LIPP Mnemonic which stands for:
L – Leakage of urine or faeces
I – Instability feeling in lower back and pelvis or general balance
P – Pain
P – Protrusion – protruding of the tummy like coning or doming or feeling or pushing down or heaviness down below
If you feel any of the 4 above in any of the exercises in the workouts please stop the exercise and seek advice from a health professional on how to modify the exercise to stop the symptoms from happening
Learn to Breathe correctly and not Hold Your Breath – breathing forms the foundation of any exercise programme
Learn to contract your pelvic floor correctly and also to be able to help it relax properly
Learn to be able to engage your deep abdominals properly – this will help prevent a severe diastasis recti and back aches
When Sitting up from lying to sitting always roll onto your side first – this helps to reduce intra- abdominal pressure and doming and peaking of the tummy
Use pillows and cushions to support yourself – a cushion between the knees can make you more comfortable when lying on your side.
If you feel any shortness in breath, dizziness, palpitations when lying on your back try propping your back back up with pillows and cushions or try doing the exercise lying on your side when possible rather than lying on your back in exercises
If you are doing a couple of exercises lying on your back alternate with doing some on the side or in 4 point kneeling before returning to do more on your back
Some exercises that also strengthen the bum muscles and muscles on the insides of your thighs are good to include in workouts. They work other important muscles during pregnancy– you have more elastin (elasticity) in your ligaments due to more relaxin hormones so need to build stability around your pelvis – this will help prevent pain in your pubic bone and around your pelvis
Eat well ensuring you have enough energy using complex carbohydrates with low glycaemic index rather than a high glycaemic index
Keep Hydrated and Drink plenty of water – aim for at least 2 litres per day
WHAT IS DIASTASIS RECTI AND HOW DO I REDUCE IT DURING PREGNANCY?
During the later stages of your pregnancy there are a number of factors that increase the intra-abdominal pressure within your abdomen such as:
progressive uterus growth,
maternal body changes,
changing postures that mothers adapt to
reduced strength and tension in the abdominal muscles.
There is a piece of connective tissue between your ‘6 pack’ rectus abdominis muscles at the front which joins them together. As you get bigger and the intra- abdominal pressure increases and abdominal muscles compromised the linea alba stretches and becomes weaker and thinner (think about pulling on a piece of dough from both sides and as it stretches out and becomes weaker in the middle)
After Giving Birth with about 60% of mums this linea alba tightens and becomes strong again and the gap between the muscles closes by 8 weeks. With about 40% of mums unfortunately this does not happen and they can have a linea alba which is still weak and stretched and a gap between the muscles.
When some mums feel that they still look pregnant months down the line and still have a ‘paunch’ or ‘mummy tummy’ often it is because of this Diastasis Recti.
What can I do about it when pregnant?
By working on strengthening the pelvic floor muscles and your deep abdominal core muscles you can reduce the extent of the separation
Avoiding any movements or exercises that cause a doming , ridging, coning of your stomach
When getting up from a mat or low sofa or out of bed – always roll onto your side first
How Can I resolve it after pregnancy?
It is recommended to start a Core Strengthening program from about 2 weeks after birth to help you heal your Diastasis Recti, strengthen your pelvic floor and deep core muscles and regain the tension in your linea alba connective tissue. The longer the healing rehab process is left the longer it will take to heal.
HOW CAN HEALTH2MAMA HELP YOU?
Health2mama has physio trainers who specialise in prenatal and postnatal physio and exercise. They can offer training at your home both during pregnancy and after. Also offered are the Online programs such as ‘Core & Pelvic Floor’ or ‘Abs Fab’ Programs which include easy to follow education videos as well as 10 min video workouts to follow that help you gain back strength and a flatter tummy after having your baby in the comfort of your own home.
Follow their Instagram @health2mama for regular tips
Contributed by committee member, Bex Aldridge, a mum of 2, Physio Trainer and Owner of Health2mama (a team of physios trainers specialising in prenatal and postnatal for mums at home). She is a strong believer in the benefits of exercise during pregnancy and has written these tips to help ensure any exercise you do during pregnancy is safe.