Physical activity in pregnancy


Pregnancy is a magical time where a new life is being created from within. It can also be an overwhelming and often stressful time where there are a lot of changes happening to your body as you are caring for two by the way you sleep, eat and move. Quite often pregnancy is a time where people are led to believe that they must wrap themselves in bubble wrap and they are often told that they can’t do this and they can’t do that. Yes, caution is a necessary and a good thing, however, what we often see in our clinic is the over-cautious expectant Mum who was told that exercise is bad for them and will lead to harm to the baby. This cannot be further from the truth. Exercise is an essential part of pregnancy not just for the benefits to your body, but also to sustain a healthy mindset and wellbeing from the first trimester right the way through to the post-pregnancy period. Exercise is something that we feel is essential and we are here to promote it and here is why.

Benefits to exercise in pregnancy

The main goal of your exercise during pregnancy is to keep it simple and low risk. The idea is to maintain your fitness and not to enhance it. Pregnancy is not the right time to try learning how to swim or start playing golf. Exercise in pregnancy is about keeping up your normal routines for as long as possible and to focus on technique and quality rather than quantity. There are a whole host of benefits to exercise during a healthy pregnancy to both the baby and also to you, the Mum. The is a lower risk of birth complications and a reduced risk of the baby being overweight for their age. Exercise lowers the risk of anxiety and depression during and after pregnancy. The risk of developing pregnancy related diabetes, pre-eclampsia, high blood pressure, urinary incontinence, pelvic girdle and lower back pain are also reduced. Exercise in pregnancy lowers the risk of requiring a caesarean section and improves the chances of a natural birth and also helps to reduce recovery time following the birth. Exercise plays a vital role in controlling the mother’s weight gain during pregnancy and speeds up the reduction in weight in the post-pregnancy period. 

The things people are told exercise will cause.

There are a whole host of misconceptions that people read about or are told will happen if they don’t stop exercising during pregnancy. There are too many to name but here are a few of the most common concerns people have and here are the facts. Physical activity is not the cause of pre-mature birth or foetal abnormalities. Exercise doesn’t cause low blood sugar or high blood pressure in the health mother or baby. Exercise wont cause you to go into pre-term labour or damage the uterine membranes. The aim of your workout programme is again, keep it simple, keep it safe and enjoyable.

When not to exercise.

There are many people for whom exercise is not on the weekly plan during pregnancy and these people need to hear this directly from their doctor or obstetrician. Conditions such as pre-eclampsia, premature labour, uncontrolled diabetes or cardiovascular or respiratory diseases require special medical attention and exercise guidance just as they would if you were not pregnant. If you are suffering from these or other medical conditions, consult your doctor on what to do during your pregnancy. If you are having twins or more, you will need to reduce activity after the 28thweek. There will also be times during your pregnancy where your energy levels are low, your mood is low and you may be in some pain. While this happens, you should reduce your exercise load and focus on reducing your stress levels and recovering. Only when you are feeling better should you start your exercise journey again. 

So what exercises are good for me?

As we discussed above the aim of your exercise plan is to keep it safe, simple, enjoyable and familiar. You should keep up with some cardiovascular training such as jogging, swimming or indoor-cycling. Resistance training is also recommended for at least two sessions per week. Free weights or machine weights where you use your muscles through full range against light to moderate resistance is advised. We strongly advise you target areas such as the hips, legs and abdomen. Matt based exercise routines such as Pilates and yoga are also very popular forms of exercise and are recommended. Kegel exercises, or pelvic floor training, are highly recommended to perform regularly to help reduce the likelihood of incontinence in the pre and post-partum periods. 

What should I avoid?

Trauma to the abdomen could be catastrophic to both the mother and baby. It is therefore advised to avoid contact sports right away from conception through to delivery. Olympic style weight training is also not advised due to the risk of contact from the bars. Cycling and horse-riding are also advised against as they carry the risk of accident and high trauma. Gymnastics and Calisthenic training is not advised again due to the trauma risk. Combat sports for obvious reasons are also out! If you are a fan of the underwater sports, scuba diving is not advised as the risk of decompression sickness in the baby is increased and could be catastrophic. So, leave the flippers aside for the remainder of the pregnancy!

I don’t do much exercise, but I want to start doing more. What should I do?

Firstly, we commend you on your decision to start exercising and we are here to help. It is advised to consult your doctor to firstly rule out any contra-indications to exercise during your pregnancy. Your session should also talk about your exercise background, preference and goals for the remainder of your pregnancy and beyond. Consulting a physiotherapist is a good place to start with your exercise programme prescription. We are trained in looking at your body and how it moves. We can then analyse your exercise techniques and then formulate a progressive exercise programme to target and correct any defective area we find. Your exercise plan needs to be custom fit for your benefit and should be modified going forwards to get the best out of your changing body.

If you wish to find out more about exercise in pregnancy or are suffering from any aches and pains related to your pregnancy, physiotherapy is a great way to safely target these ailments and improve your comfort for the remainder of your pregnancy. Why not contact us today for more information.