The benefits of exercise during pregnancy are endless. The most important one for me is that it helps with labour and I’ll join any club that makes labour and birth easier!
I often find that everyone treats you like a piece of china when they discover you are pregnant. I agree with standing up to let a pregnant lady sit on public transport and helping them carry heavy shopping but when it comes to fitness we can do a lot more than you think.
Diet & exercise
Your diet is extremely important and this should be complemented with a good exercise regime.
The first thing I would advise is to find something you enjoy. Whether you’re a gym bunny, a swimmer or a yoga or a Pilate’s fan, nowadays there really is something for everyone.
If you can’t afford classes there are lots of DVD’s on the market so there’s really no excuse. You can also try some moderate aerobic activity, such as walking or swimming. 15 minutes of brisk walking three to four times a week is good or four to five times if you’re trying to minimize weight gain.
I train with a personal trainer Scott Gilchrist (@dampitptscott on twitter) and personal training is a lot more affordable that you think. If you get a friend to do it with you it also cuts cost. The benefits of a good trainer include primarily safety and doing good supervised weight training sessions strengthens and tones your muscles and helps you build stamina, which you need during labour and delivery.
Pelvic floor exercises
The next thing you need to think about is doing Kegel exercises also known as pelvic floor exercises that strengthen the muscles supporting the uterus, bladder and bowels and also help strengthen vaginal muscles. Toning all of these muscles will also minimize two common problems during pregnancy: bladder control and hemorrhoids. The best thing about Kegel exercises is that they can be done anywhere and no one knows you’re doing them.
Don’t overdo it!
On the flip side, overexertion may cause a dangerous reduction in blood flow to the fetus, so the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends mild-to-moderate exercise and stopping when fatigued. Rather than targeting a specific heart rate, many experts say it’s more important for women to pay attention to “perceived exertion,” which is basically how hard you’re breathing and feel you’re working. Trust our instincts and listen to our own body. You should never be breathing so hard that you can’t talk. This is how I measured how far to push myself.
Monitor your baby’s kicks
To help make sure your baby’s handling the extra effort, take some time each day to count your baby’s kicks. Fetuses usually kick at least five times an hour, but since babies have 20-minute sleep cycles, if the baby doesn’t kick five times, try counting again for a second hour. If you have concerns, check with your health-care provider.
Don’t panic if the kicks get more active right after you’ve exercised, either. Your baby is just responding to a rush of oxygen and glucose that’s been diverted temporarily during exercise. It’s nothing to worry about as long as you’re not overdoing it.
More benefits of excising during pregnancy
I’m also convinced labour, delivery and recovery are smoother when you’re in such good shape. A good exercise routine can help you reduce ailments and complications like backaches, ankle swelling and fatigue during pregnancy, and your body again will be better prepared for the rigors of childbirth.
Exercise also typically reduces stress and enhances body image, so pregnant women who are working on their fitness level often feel better about themselves. I was going through a pretty awful time emotionally and I can safely say keeping fit and healthy played a huge part in pulling me through.