Exercise During Pregnancy: What You Need to Know
Exercise • • minute to read • By INFS, INFS Faculty
Pregnancy is an exciting time, but it can also be challenging for the female body. Eating well and staying physically active are both important to support the changes that happen during this time. But when it comes to exercise, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions that can make it difficult to know what to do. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about exercise during pregnancy, including weight lifting, Kegel exercises, breathing exercises, and more.
What Special Attention To Health Is Needed During Pregnancy?
Pregnancy is a crucial phase in a woman’s life that involves significant physical and emotional changes. During this time, taking care of oneself becomes a top priority to ensure a healthy pregnancy and a smooth delivery. Two key aspects of self-care during pregnancy are exercise and nutrition.
Regular exercise during pregnancy has been shown to have many benefits, including reducing the risk of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and preterm labor. Exercise can also improve mood, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote better sleep. It can also help with weight management, which is important for both the mother’s health and the baby’s growth and development.
Proper nutrition is equally important during pregnancy. The growing fetus requires essential nutrients such as protein, folic acid, iron, and calcium, among others. A balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can help meet these nutritional needs and support a healthy pregnancy.
Together, exercise and nutrition can help support a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. It’s important to consult with a healthcare provider to determine what types of exercise and nutrition plan are safe and appropriate for individual needs and circumstances.
Can You Do Exercise During Pregnancy?
Yes! In fact, exercise during pregnancy has many benefits. It can help you manage your weight, reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep, and even reduce your risk of developing gestational diabetes. However, it’s important to approach exercise during pregnancy with caution and make sure you’re doing it safely.
What Are the Risks of Exercise During Pregnancy?
While exercise during pregnancy is generally safe, there are some risks to be aware of. For example, some types of exercise, such as contact sports or activities with a high risk of falling, can be dangerous. Additionally, pregnant women may be more prone to certain injuries, such as sprains or strains, due to the changes in their bodies. It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider before starting any exercise program during pregnancy to make sure it’s safe for you and your baby.
How Can You Modify Exercises During Pregnancy?
As your body changes during pregnancy, you may need to modify your exercise routine to accommodate these changes. For example, you may need to avoid exercises that require a lot of jumping or twisting, as these can put extra strain on your joints. It’s also important to listen to your body and avoid pushing yourself too hard. Remember, the goal of exercise during pregnancy is to stay healthy and active, not to set personal records or achieve fitness goals.
Myths About Exercising During Pregnancy
There are several myths and misconceptions surrounding exercise during pregnancy. Here are some of the most common myths and the corresponding answers:
Myth: One should avoid physical activity during pregnancy
While it’s important to approach exercise with caution during pregnancy, avoiding physical activity altogether is not recommended. In fact, regular exercise is beneficial for both the mother and baby, as long as it is done safely and appropriately.
Myth: Weight lifting is not safe during pregnancy
Weight lifting can be safe during pregnancy, as long as it is done carefully and under the guidance of a healthcare provider. It’s important to avoid heavy weights and to focus on proper form and technique.
Myth: The heart rate should not exceed 140 beats per minute during exercise
There is no specific heart rate limit for exercise during pregnancy. Instead, it’s important to focus on the perceived level of exertion, which can be measured using the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale. Pregnant women should aim to keep their RPE between 5 and 7 during exercise.
Myth: Exercise during pregnancy can harm the baby
Regular exercise during pregnancy has been shown to have numerous benefits for both the mother and baby, including reducing the risk of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and preterm labor. However, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any exercise program during pregnancy to ensure that it is safe and appropriate.
Myth: Crunches and other abdominal exercises should be avoided during pregnancy
While it’s important to modify some exercises during pregnancy, such as those that involve lying on the back, it’s generally safe to do abdominal exercises during pregnancy. However, it’s important to focus on proper form and technique and to avoid any exercises that cause discomfort or pain.
By understanding and dispelling these common myths about exercise during pregnancy, women can safely and confidently incorporate regular physical activity into their pregnancy routine.
Weight Lifting During Pregnancy
Contrary to popular belief, weight lifting can be safe and beneficial during pregnancy. Strength training can help you maintain muscle mass, which is important for supporting your changing body and preparing for childbirth. However, it’s important to approach weight lifting with caution and make sure you’re doing it safely.
Overview of the benefits of exercise during pregnancy
Exercise during pregnancy has numerous benefits that can positively impact both the mother and baby. Here are some of the key benefits of exercise during pregnancy:
- Reduces the risk of gestational diabetes: Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy. Regular exercise can help reduce the risk of developing this condition.
- Reduces the risk of high blood pressure: High blood pressure is a common complication of pregnancy that can lead to serious health problems for both the mother and baby. Exercise can help reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure during pregnancy.
- Reduces the risk of preterm labor: Preterm labor is when a baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of preterm labor.
- Improves mood: Pregnancy can be an emotional time, and exercise has been shown to help improve mood and reduce stress and anxiety.
- Promotes better sleep: Pregnancy can also disrupt sleep patterns, but exercise can help promote better sleep quality.
- Helps with weight management: Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can increase the risk of complications, such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. Exercise can help manage weight gain during pregnancy.
- Increases energy levels: Exercise can also help increase energy levels, which can be especially helpful during the later stages of pregnancy when fatigue is common.
- Improves cardiovascular health: Regular exercise can improve cardiovascular health and help prepare the body for the physical demands of labor and delivery.
- May reduce the risk of postpartum depression: Exercise during pregnancy has been shown to reduce the risk of postpartum depression, which is a common condition that can affect new mothers after giving birth.
It’s important to note that each pregnancy is unique, and it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any exercise program during pregnancy. The healthcare provider can provide individualised guidance on safe and appropriate exercise options.
What Are the Risks of Weight Lifting During Pregnancy?
While weight lifting is generally safe during pregnancy, there are some risks to be aware of. For example, lifting too heavy of weights can strain your muscles and joints, and can even increase your risk of injury. It’s important to start with light weights and gradually increase as your strength and endurance improve.
How Can You Modify Weight Lifting Exercises During Pregnancy?
To modify weight lifting exercises during pregnancy, you may need to use lighter weights and perform fewer repetitions. You may also need to avoid exercises that require you to lie on your back, as this can reduce blood flow to your uterus. Instead, try exercises that are performed in a standing or seated position, such as squats or overhead presses. Always listen to your body and avoid any exercises that feel uncomfortable or cause pain.
Kegel Exercises During Pregnancy
What Are Kegel Exercises?
Kegel exercises are a type of exercise that targets the pelvic floor muscles, which support the bladder, uterus, and rectum. These exercises can be particularly beneficial during pregnancy and after childbirth, as the pelvic floor muscles can become weakened during this time. Kegel exercises can help strengthen these muscles and reduce the risk of complications.
How Can You Do Kegel Exercises During Pregnancy?
Here are the steps to perform Kegel exercises:
- Identify the muscles: The first step in performing Kegel exercises is to identify the pelvic floor muscles. These are the muscles that you would use to stop the flow of urine. You can also try to imagine that you’re trying to stop passing gas.
- Contract the muscles: Once you have identified the pelvic floor muscles, contract them by squeezing and lifting them upward. Make sure to avoid squeezing the buttocks or abdominal muscles.
- Hold the contraction: Hold the contraction for 5-10 seconds, or as long as you can comfortably hold it.
- Release the muscles: Relax the muscles and let them return to their resting state.
- Repeat: Repeat the exercise 10-15 times, three times a day. You can increase the number of repetitions as your muscles become stronger.
It’s important to note that Kegel exercises should be done regularly to be effective. They can be done anytime, anywhere, and are discreet, as they don’t require any special equipment or a specific location. However, it’s important to avoid overexerting yourself and to listen to your body. If you experience any pain or discomfort while doing Kegel exercises, stop immediately and consult with your healthcare provider.
Breathing Exercises During Pregnancy
Breathing exercises are another type of exercise that can be beneficial during pregnancy. These exercises can help you manage stress and anxiety, and can also help you prepare for childbirth.
What Are Some Types of Breathing Exercises?
There are several different types of breathing exercises that you can try during pregnancy, including:
- Deep breathing: Take a deep breath in through your nose, and exhale slowly through your mouth.
- Equal breathing: Inhale for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four.
- Belly breathing: Place your hand on your belly, and breathe deeply, feeling your belly rise and fall with each breath.
How Can You Do Breathing Exercises During Pregnancy?
To do breathing exercises during pregnancy, find a quiet, comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position, and focus on your breath. Try to inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, and exhale slowly through your mouth. You can also try counting your breaths, or visualising a calming scene, such as a beach or a forest.
FAQs About Exercise During Pregnancy
Q: Is it safe to start exercising during pregnancy?
A: Yes, it’s generally safe to start exercising during pregnancy, as long as you approach it with caution and make sure you’re doing it safely. Talk to your healthcare provider before starting any exercise program.
Q: Can I lift weights during pregnancy?
A: Yes, you can lift weights during pregnancy, but it’s important to use caution and make sure you’re doing it safely. Start with light weights and gradually increase as your strength and endurance improve.
Q: How often should I exercise during pregnancy?
A: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week during pregnancy. This can be broken down into 30 minutes per day, five days a week.
Q: Are there any exercises I should avoid during pregnancy?
A: Yes, there are some exercises that you should avoid during pregnancy, such as contact sports or activities with a high risk of falling. Talk to your healthcare provider before starting any exercise program.
Q: Can I do Kegel exercises during pregnancy?
A: Yes, Kegel exercises can be beneficial during pregnancy, as they can help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. However, it’s important to listen to your body and avoid overexerting yourself.
Exercise during pregnancy can be safe and beneficial, but it’s important to approach it with caution and make sure you’re doing it safely. By modifying your exercise routine to accommodate the changes in your body, and listening to your body and avoiding overexerting yourself, you can stay healthy and active during this exciting time. Remember to talk to your healthcare provider before starting any exercise program, and don’t hesitate to ask for guidance or advice along the way.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2015). Physical activity and exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Committee Opinion No. 650. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 126, e135–e142.
- Hopkins, S. A., Baldi, J. C., Cutfield, W. S., & McCowan, L. (2010). Exercise training in pregnancy reduces offspring size without changes in maternal insulin sensitivity. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 95, 2080–2088.
- Kramer, M. S., McDonald, S. W., & Aerde, J. V. (2013). Exercise for women during pregnancy. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 12, CD002983.
- Daley, A. J., Foster, L., Long, G., Palmer, C., Robinson, O., & Walmsley, H. (2015). The effectiveness of exercise for the prevention and treatment of antenatal depression: Systematic review with meta-analysis. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 122, 57–62.
- ACOG Committee on Obstetric Practice. (2002). Exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 186, 1–4.
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