Found out you are pregnant? Grab your champagne glass and fill with sparkling grape juice! Congratulations and good news there is now no need to confine yourself to the sofa for the rest of your pregnancy. There are plenty of ways to stay fit and active but you probably have some questions. Here are the ones we get asked most often …
I have been told that the best form of exercise is swimming now I am pregnant, is this true?
Swimming is a good form of exercise (although not the only one!) for expectant mothers for a number of reasons.
The weightlessness in the water makes it a more comfortable form of exercise than walking around carrying your bump. It is lower impact and it puts less strain on your joints.
A few things to take on board when swimming in pregnancy:
1. Avoid holding your breath as this can cause your blood pressure to rise.
2. Be careful with breaststroke legs, front crawl kick is better. If you have any pelvic problems then breaststoke may make them worse, due to the action of widening of the hips. This may also lead to an increasing the chance of developing Pelvic Girdle Pain, formely known as Symphisis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD). Alternatively try walking through the water, a side kick or an aqua class.
3. Avoid butterfly stroke after your first trimester as this can place strain on your lower back.
4. Make sure you have a bottle of water on the side of the pool and continue to sip water like you would with any exercise.
How about Pilates or Yoga now I am pregnant?
Pilates helps improve and maintain good posture and helps improve the strengthen of your core muscles. This in turn can alleviate any back problems or back ache. It’s best to find a specific pre-natal class with a qualified antenatal exercise trainer.
Can I still do a Body Pump or a Body Conditioning class that use weights?
During your first trimester, you can still continue all your regular classes but remember to listen to your body and avoid over-exertion.
Light resistance training throughout pregnancy has benefits as it will help keep your muscles strong, toned and prepared for after the baby is born (your baby may be any weight from 3-4.5kg so getting used to lifting that weight is important!). Similary the stronger your muscles the more they can deal with the postural changes your body is experiencing. As your pregnancy progresses it is important to make sure you adapt and reduce your weight load.
Can I do sit-ups?
As your baby grows, your abdominal muscles stretch and weaken considerably to accommodate it, so you need to look after and continue to strengthen them. Sit-ups are not the best option (even if you are not pregnant, this is not the best exercise to strengthen your abdominals).
During your first trimester, normal abdominal conditioning can continue but if you experience any pain or back ache, stop the exercise.
During your second trimester, you want to avoid any exercises in the supine position (lying on your back) as the increased weight of the baby impedes good blood flow and oxygen to the fetus so you can experience dizziness, light headedness or nausea. You can add pillows so that your head is elevated above your heart. If you do lye on your back avoid staying there for longer than 2 minutes. Avoid sit-ups, reverse curls and oblique twists and focus on core strengthening and stability exercises.
Should I stretch?
During pregnancy the relaxin hormone is produced, as early as the 2nd week, and it’s effects on the ligaments can remain up to 6 months after delivery. Relaxin, as the name suggests, relaxes the ligaments and fibrous tissue to prepare the body to carry the baby and for labour.
It’s important to understand the exercise considerations of relaxin because it makes the ligaments and tendons more elastic and the joints less stable. Pregnant women are therefore more prone to injury during physical activities and are less stable in everyday movements.
Stretching when you are pregnant is still key as the moves prevent muscles tightness and relieve tension and pain. Static stretches are generally replaced with gentle dynamic stretches. Consider hiring a personal trainer to show you the correct stretches and technique.
How can I do my Pelvic Floor exercises?
Voluntarily lift up your pelvic floor (imagine it is a hammock lying under your bladder) and tighten your belly button at the same time. Do this when you cough and also when you are doing squats, plies, lunges, the Pilates Clam and any hip adductor exercises.
This content aims to give general fitness advice and tips to expectant mothers experiencing a normal pregnancy. This should not be treated as a substitute for or supersede any medical advice you have been given.