Read the previous part of this series here. This is the last post of this series.
General cautions for pregnancy exercise
While most forms of exercise are safe, there are some exercises that involve positions and movements that may be uncomfortable or harmful for pregnant women. Be guided by your doctor or physiotherapist on those positions but let me share some of the generic cautions:
- Avoid raising your body temperature too high – for example, don’t soak in hot spas or exercise to the point of heavy sweating. Reduce your level of exercise on hot or humid days.
- Don’t exercise to the point of exhaustion.
- If weight training, choose low weights and medium to high repetitions – avoid lifting heavy weights altogether.
- Don’t exercise if you are ill or feverish.
- If you don’t feel like exercising on a particular day – then don’t! It is important to listen to your body to avoid unnecessarily depleting your energy reserves.
Exercises to avoid while pregnant
During pregnancy, avoid sports and activities with increased risk of falling like:
- Contact sports or activities that carry a risk of falling (such as trampolining, roller blading, downhill snow skiing, horse riding and basketball)
- Competition sports – depending on the stage of pregnancy, the level of competition and your level of fitness
- After about the fourth month of pregnancy, exercises that involve lying on your back – the weight of the baby can slow the return of blood to the heart. Try to modify these exercises by lying on the side.
- In the later stages of pregnancy, activities that involve jumping, frequent changes of direction and excessive stretching (such as gymnastics).
- If you’re not sure whether a particular activity is safe during pregnancy, check with your doctor.
Pelvic floor exercises and pregnancy
The pelvic floor muscles are weakened during pregnancy and during normal birth (vaginal delivery), so it is extremely important to begin conditioning the pelvic floor muscles from the start of the pregnancy. Appropriate exercises can be prescribed by a physiotherapist. It is important to continue with these throughout the pregnancy and resume as soon as is comfortable after the birth.
Abdominal exercises and pregnancy
Strong abdominal muscles support your spine. The internal core and pelvic floor abdominal muscles act as a natural ‘corset’ to protect the pelvis and lumbar spine. Traditional sit-ups or crunches can be ineffective during pregnancy and may make worse the condition known as diastasis recti abdominis (a painless splitting of the abdominal muscle at the midline).
Appropriate core stability exercises are recommended during pregnancy to strengthen the muscles of the abdomen:
- Concentrate on drawing your belly button towards your spine.
- Breathe out while pulling in your belly.
- Hold the position and count to 10. Relax and breathe in.
- Repeat 10 times, as many times a day as you are able.
- You can perform this exercise sitting, standing or on your hands and knees.
Warning signs for exercising during pregnancy
If you experience any of the following during or after physical activity, stop exercising immediately and see your doctor or physiotherapist:
- Dizziness or feeling faint
- Heart palpitations
- Chest pain
- Swelling of the face, hands or feet
- Calf pain or swelling
- Vaginal bleeding
- Deep back or pubic pain
- Cramping in the lower abdomen
- Walking difficulties
- An unusual change in your baby’s movements
- Amniotic fluid leakage
And, finally, Things to remember
- Exercise during pregnancy offers many physical and emotional benefits. While exercise during pregnancy is usually encouraged, you may feel it’s not right for you.
- Talk to your doctor, physiotherapist or healthcare professional to make sure your exercise routine won’t cause harm to you or your unborn baby.
- Any illness or complication of the pregnancy should be fully assessed and discussed with your doctor before commencing or continuing an exercise program.
What do you say? Do you think it is good to exercise during pregnancy? Did you doctor recommend it to you? Or, did they cite reasons for it being unsafe for you?