Exercise During Pregnancy and What to Avoid

HOW TO START YOUR PREGNANCY EXERCISE PROGRAM

Exercise during pregnancy can be good for you and your baby, and while we encourage exercise, a note of caution should be raised.

Depending on your medical history, your exercise program should be tailored individually and can depend on your starting fitness and exercise experience.

Your program should cover intensity, frequency and exercise type in order to ensure safety.

BODY CHANGES AND PREGNANCY EXERCISE

As your body changes some exercise types may become difficult. Specifically, as you gain weight during pregnancy jogging and running may become uncomfortable.

Both the extra weight and its distribution can affect your balance and coordination. These body changes may limit some sports and activities.

LATER STAGE PREGNANCY RISKS

During the later stages of pregnancy your pelvic ligaments and joints naturally loosen in preparation for delivery. This can impact any exercise or sport that relies on core stability.

Activities that involve risk of injury, so actions that require quick changes of direction, jumping and twisting motion should be avoided.

BE AWARE OF YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE

During pregnancy your resting heart rate increases and this should be taken into consideration when physical exertion is involved.

Any decrease in blood pressure that can result during pregnancy can make you feel light-headed and dizzy. These sensations can impact your balance and stamina.

EXERCISE FREQUENCY DURING PREGNANCY

You should understand your pregnancy type would have been assessed initially by Dr Alexander.

If you are considered a “low risk pregnancy” moderate intensity exercise 3-5 times a week is recommended. Dr Alexander can help you with this.

WHAT IS MODERATE INTENSITY EXERCISE?

This will vary based on your individual fitness levels.

A good way to determine a comfortable intensity while exercising is through the talk test. If you cannot maintain a conversation during exercise then this is not considered to be moderate intensity and you should reduce the intensity of your physical activity until you can.

WHAT IS APPROPRIATE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY DURING PREGNANCY?

Activities to consider are activities that have a low risk of:

  • falling or injury
  • joint and ligament damage

This includes low impact activities that do not require too many quick changes to the centre of gravity or depend predominantly on balance.

PREPARING FOR EXERCISE DURING PREGNANCY

All exercise should begin with a warm up and end with a cool down process.

Your pre birth hormones can produce greater flexible which can lead to excessive stretching and pulling. This can cause injury. Your stretching should be done very gently, especially after the first trimester.

COMMON PREGNANCY EXERCISES

Sports you may consider are those that do not expose you to increased risks of injury, stress and other complications. These include:

Walking is safe for pregnant women who are only just beginning to exercise. You have a low risk of falling and it is easy to control exertion levels.

Walking is low impact for your joints and muscles yet still gives you a total body workout and improves your cardiovascular fitness.

Swimming, water aerobics and water walking are safe and fun sports. Swimming works almost all muscles in your body without the risk of overheating. Water aerobics is great for cardiovascular fitness. These water sports are safe as there is no risk of falling or losing balance. You also benefit in later pregnancy as the water supports your increased body weight but does has a low risk of muscle strain.

If you experience back pain and leg swelling during pregnancy these water activities can offer effective relief of these symptoms.

Stationary Cycling should also be considered as it supports your cardiovascular system and can help improve leg muscle strength. During your pregnancy stationary cycling is a better alternative to road biking because as your belly grows your balance becomes more difficult.

Weight training or moderate resistance training using free weights and weight machines during pregnancy if you are familiar with this activity is also fine. If you are new to weight training starting after your conception is not recommended.

Continual strength and flexibility improvement will help you adapt to your body changes during pregnancy. You may also find managing your increased body weight and changed centre of gravity easier with stronger muscles.

You should specifically consider exercises that focus on low back strength.

Running like most activities is safe in moderation. If you have been running frequently before you became pregnant, you may consider lessening your running intensity and frequency.

It is not advised that you take up running during your pregnancy if your were not previously a frequent runner.

EXERCISES TO AVOID DURING PREGNANCY

Sports to avoid are those that expose you to increased risks of injury, stress and other complications.

While some activities will be too uncomfortable or tiring, you should also be aware of exercises to avoid. These include:

Heavy Weights where training and lifting involve maximal isometric muscle contractions. These activities can place unnecessary stress on the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal system;

Holding Your Breath during during yoga or weight training. If you are ever not breathing during any exercise this is a clear indication you are over-exerting yourself and you need to stop;

Lying on Your Back exercises after your first trimester should be avoided as this can reduce the blood flow to the foetus and can cause hypotension from vena cava compression by the uterus;

Lying on Your Stomach exercises;

Abdominal Strengthening exercises can cause you discomfort due to muscle weakness and the development of abdominal separation. This is called diastasis recti and can occur as the uterus grows;

Standing still for long periods of time is not recommended;

Contact sports and high-impact sports such as hockey, soccer and netball can risk abdominal trauma, excessive joint stress and falls;

Scuba Diving should be avoided as the pressure can result in birth defects and foetal decompression sickness;

Other Activities can include those that:

  • increase the risk of falls such as gymnastics, horseback riding and water skiing;
  • require changes to the centre of gravity that can cause a loss of balance such as squash and tennis;
  • induce altitude sickness which in turn can reduce the oxygen supply to the foetus such as climbing above 2,500m without expert medical guidance.

YOUR NEXT STEP

If you are experiencing any problems with your pregnancy or are concerned about any activities you may be planning contact Dr Alexander who will offer advice.

For patients suffering from post exercise pain or other anomalies contact your general practitioner or incase of an emergency an ambulance.

Otherwise if not already a patient possibly obtain a referral to see Dr Alexander at www.my-obgyn.com.au/contact.