Exercise for pregnant women: Is it safe?

Pregnant women often enquire if exercise is safe for them during the course of their pregnancy. Not so long ago, exercise for pregnant women was a definite no-no. Perception has changed over time and doctors now opine that exercise is beneficial for pregnant women. Although light to moderate exercise is usually acceptable, the intensity of exercise depends on many factors like your current physical condition, weight and endurance. It is prudent to consult your doctor for recommendations regarding your exercise program.

Exercise and the unborn baby

Another common concern amongst pregnant women is the effect of exercise on the unborn baby. The baby lives in the uterus where the placenta is attached from the uterus wall to the baby’s belly button. Most women are concerned that exercise may lead to premature labor or result in miscarriage. The truth is that light to moderate exercise is not detrimental to the baby. Excessive exercise to the point where the body overheats is generally not recommended for pregnant women. Pregnant women should discuss exercise levels with their doctor.

Pregnancy exercise is helpful for mothers: There are numerous benefits of pregnancy exercise. Some stretching exercises can strengthen your thighs, back and hamstrings and get you in the right shape for labor. When you exercise the brain releases hormones which invigorates you, improves your mood and helps you to feel more calm and tranquil. Gestational Diabetes can be avoided through exercise. It is recognized that there is trend towards shorter labor and fewer obstetric interventions in women who are in good physical shape. Pelvic floor or Kegel exercises are of assistance in controlling incontinence during pregnancy. Regular exercise during pregnancy also helps with post partum weight loss

Pregnancy exercise is helpful for babies: Research suggests that pregnancy exercise improves blood supply to the baby by means of the placenta. Women who exercise regularly usually deliver babies in the normal weight range. Doctors advocate that maternal exercise is good for the unborn baby’s heart and is generally good for the nervous system growth of the baby.

When is pregnancy exercise risky?

While moderate exercise is usually safe for pregnant women there are a few hazards for women with specific medical conditions including high blood pressure, heart disease.

Discontinue exercising if you experience vaginal bleeding, or if you suspect your labor has commenced.

You should also discontinue exercising if you are feeling generally unwell.

What exercises to avoid

One activity to be avoided is the lifting of heavy weights. This is to be avoided from the initial stages of pregnancy but particularly in the second and third trimester.

Avoid vigorous racquet sports like squash, or singles tennis or badminton particularly in the third trimester
Low intensity racquet sports like table-tennis may be played.

Apart from the increase in weight, there is also an additional demand on your heart during pregnancy because of the increase in blood volume which increases the load on your heart to supply nutrition to your baby. It is better to start slowly and build up over time

Avoid any exercises which can cause your body to overheat.

Variety of exercises for pregnant women

Aerobic Exercise

Walking is a good for you especially when you are expecting. Brisk walking is also considered safe for pregnant women. It is the best way to exercise.

Running or jogging is generally not recommended in the final trimester unless you are in very good physical condition and have been an avid jogger from before.

Early morning or evenings are best to perform these exercises and you can have loads of fun doing it.

Stationary Cycling is also an excellent aerobic exercise for pregnant women.

Anaerobic exercise

Anaerobic exercises target the muscles and overall flexibility, they also help in strengthening the bones which is very important for pregnant women.

Exercises like yoga, strength training and other methods which engage the limbs, back and spine are all useful.

It is very important for pregnant women to let their body direct them as to how much to exercise. Simply put, listen to your body, if you are feeling tired it’s best to stop.