Just because a woman is pregnant does not usually mean that she should stop any physical activity. Equally, it does not mean that she cannot start physical activity. For most women, at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day is recommended as part of living a healthy lifestyle.
If one is regularly physically active during pregnancy, it can have a number of benefits, both for the mother and her baby. Regular physical activity has been shown to:
- Help the mother keep a healthy weight during and after the pregnancy.
- Help to sleep better and feel less tired.
- Reduce chances of developing varicose veins.
- Reduce chances of swollen feet, ankles or hands.
- Reduce the chance and severity of anxiety or depression.
- Help prevent back pain.
- Reduce the risk of problems with high blood pressure during pregnancy.
- Reduce the risk of developing gestational diabetes.
- Regular exercise and physical activity may help to improve the control of diabetes.
- It may shorten labour and can make the baby more resilient during the birth process.
One needs to be careful about the type of physical activity one chooses so as not to risk any harm to the mother or her baby.
Given below is a trimester-by-trimester guide to exercise.
- The mother can pretty much continue doing exactly what she was doing before pregnancy.
- One can get involved in parental yoga or Pilates class.
- If the mother feels sluggish, she should try decreasing either intensity or the duration of the workout.
- Cardio intensity should be cut back as the heart is starting to work harder to circulate the blood.
- One should avoid inversions.
- Cut down on cycling and switch to stationary bike as the growing belly can make balancing on a bicycle tricky.
- Since the joints are vulnerable, picking heavy weights is a big no-no.
- Free-weight exercises can be done seated as it can be painful if the back is not supported.
- Swimming is a great way to exercise and the mother will feel wonderfully weightless in the water and will not stress the joints.
Once the mother reaches 16 weeks of pregnancy, she should skip exercises that involve lying flat on her back or standing in one place for a long time. Both can reduce blood flow to the baby.
However there are a few things that one should watch out for. One should stop exercising and seek urgent medical attention if the mother develops:
- Excessive shortness of breath.
- Palpitations or chest pains
- Dizziness or feeling faint
- Painful contractions, signs of labour or any leakage of amniotic fluid.
- Vaginal bleeding
- Excessive tiredness
- Abdominal, and/or back pain
- Severe headache
- Calf pain or swelling
- Concerns that the baby is not moving or moving less.
It is imperative to listen to the body when exercising and slow down or stop if one is feeling tired or unwell. Brisk walking, swimming and cycling on stationary bike are some good and safe forms of exercise, as long as one does not overdo it.