Once pregnancy is confirmed, there are conflicting opinions regarding the amount and type of physical activity that the pregnant woman can indulge in, even with regards to her daily routines at home. It has well established that exercise during pregnancy improves and maintains physical fitness, mental health and well-being, also prepares the body for labour and delivery.
Exercise does not pose risk of miscarriage in a normal pregnancy. But, it is important not to overdo, be cautious and to consult a doctor before starting a new exercise regimen in pregnancy, especially if the pregnancy has complications like
- pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure)
- cervical incompetence
- vaginal bleeding
- placenta previa (placenta lies low in the uterus)
- abruptio placenta (placenta is detached from uterus during pregnancy before labour)
- heart problems
- risk of preterm labour, etc.
Physical exercises may range from routine moderate daily activity to guided exercises in a gym to jogging, running, yoga and swimming. If a woman is used to jogging, running before pregnancy, it is likely safe to remain active and maintain similar activity during pregnancy as well. Most of the doctors generally recommend the pregnant women to remain active, as long as she is comfortable.
Exercise for 20-30 minutes daily on most of the days and prenatal yoga (a great form of mild, simple exercise) are known to be highly beneficial in pregnancy.
Benefits from exercise during pregnancy:
- Improves blood circulation, mood and energy.
- Helps in providing relief from constipation, stomach upset (bloating, burps and belches), backache which are very common in pregnancy.
- Helps in reducing swelling of ankles and legs by redirecting the fluid which is pooled in ankles.
- Improves the muscle tone, strength, posture and makes the joints stronger.
- Helps the woman sleep better.
- Prevents excessive weight gain.
Activities to avoid during exercise in pregnancy:
- Twisting, bending over, stretching excessively while doing exercise.
- Excessive jumping, skipping etc.
- Exercises involving a blow to abdomen,or that involve sudden and rapid movements.
- Exercises which may impose a risk of falling down, skidding like horse riding, cycling etc.
- Exercises which may cause exhaustion and difficulty in breathing (indicates the exercise has become strenuous).The pregnant woman should be able to converse while doing exercise.
- Avoid doing exercises at heights.
Exercises which may be considered during pregnancy:
- Practicing “squats” in pregnancy may be helpful during delivery.
- “Pelvic tilt exercises” strengthen the abdominal muscles and help in relieving backache of pregnancy and labour.
- Lie on the floor with your back flat on the surface, hands by your side and knees bent.
- Tighten the muscles of abdomen and bend the knees slightly in such a way that they are brought close to abdomen.
- Hold the position for 10 seconds and repeat up to 10 times, giving a gap of a few seconds in between.
“Pelvic floor exercises” may strengthen pelvic floor muscles (near vagina) which is usually helpful during labour.
A few points to keep in mind while doing exercise:
- It is always a good idea to start with walking, when the woman is not used to physical activity otherwise.
- Wear loose, comfortable, cotton clothes, with a supportive bra.
- Keep well hydrated by drinking plenty of water before, during and after exercise.
- Proper nutrition, at least 30 minutes to 1 hour prior to exercise.
- Do the exercises on flat surface, making sure the floor is not slippery and has good grip.
It is important to understand the fact that the baby is surrounded by amniotic fluid, inside the strong, thick muscles of uterus (womb), which tend to keep the environment safe for the baby. However, a special attention needs to be paid to avoid exercises which may be strenuous, may cause high impact and which may involve a physical blow to abdomen.
Remember that pregnancy is not the time for weight loss, in fact, it is the time for optimal weight gain to support growing fetus. Proper physical exercises help the woman attain ideal weight gain during pregnancy (which is calculated according to her BMI before pregnancy) and facilitate the pregnant woman to get back to her previous weight and shape after delivery of the baby.
– Dr. Divya Teja Pasupuleti