Exercise is important before, during and after pregnancy but many women are hesitant to engage in any sort of physical activity when they are trying to conceive, when they are with child and when they have just had a baby. It has been shown that women who are better informed about the safety aspects of exercise during pregnancy will be more motivated to be physically active. Ask your doctor about what precautions you can take in order to make exercise during pregnancy safe. The more information you have about safety, the more comfortable you will feel about exercise. Your body and your baby will thank you for it!
More information on Beginning an Exercise Program During Pregnancy.
It is very important that all exercisers, pregnant women especially, pay close attention to the signs their body is sending them while they are exercising. Over-exertion and overheating can be very dangerous during pregnancy and need to be avoided.
Before you start exercising in pregnancy you should make sure you are aware of the signs and symptoms that may indicate your body is not coping with the activity. The following are some signs and symptoms that require you to stop the physical activity and seek medical attention:
- Vaginal Bleeding;
- Dizziness or feelings of faintness;
- Excessive shortness of breath;
- Chest pain;
- Muscle weakness;
- Calf pain or swelling;
- Significantly increased heart rate (the recommended maximum heart rate while exercising for pregnant women is 140 beats/min);
- Premature vaginal contractions;
- Decreased foetal movement; and/or
- Vaginal fluid leaking.
Overheating can cause dehydration which can cause complications during pregnancy. There are a number to avoid overheating. Firstly, exercising in hot, humid weather should be avoided. Exercising early in the morning or in the evening or in an air conditioned gym is the best way to avoid this. You should definitely not be exercising if you have a fever during pregnancy.
Do not overexert yourself. The recommended maximum heart rate is 140 beats per minute while exercising for pregnant women, if you exceed this then stop exercising and wait until your heart rate returns to below the recommended limit.
The choice of clothing will also help to control temperature; comfortable, loose fitting clothes are more likely to keep you cool.
Of absolute importance is to keep hydrated before, during and after exercise. Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day, even more while exercising.
The blood glucose levels of women when pregnant decrease during exercise much more rapidly than usual. Consuming the recommended energy intake is very important if you plan to exercise while pregnant. Your doctor can help you figure out how much food you should be eating.
More information on Nutrition in Pregnancy.
Having a sugar fix on hand, such as lollies or a sport drink can be helpful to quickly and transiently raise blood sugar, this is required if you are feeling faint during or after exercise.
Any exercise that puts you or your foetus at risk should be avoided. This includes activities that involve jarring movements such as jumping or quick changes. If you are going to engage in sports that may involve some quick or bouncing movements (make sure you have your doctor’s approval first!) you must invest in good quality sports bra to protect your breasts.
There are specific exercises which are very well suited to pregnancy and some which should be avoided.
More information on Exercises to Do and Avoid during Pregnancy.
|For more information about pregnancy and exercise, including pre-pregnancy exercise, suitable types of exercise, risks and benefits of exercise and exercise myths, see Pregnancy and Exercise.|
|For more information about pregnancy, including preconception advice, stages of pregnancy, investigations, complications, living with pregnancy and birth, see Pregnancy.|
|For more information on fitness and exercise, including stretches, types of exercise, exercise recovery and exercise with health conditions, as well as some useful videos, see Fitness|
- Duncombe D, Wertheim EH, Skouteris H, Paxton SJ, Kelly L. Factors related to exercise over the course of pregnancy including women’s beliefs about the safety of exercise during pregnancy. Midwifery. 2009; 25(4): 430-8. [Abstract]
- Haakstad LA, Voldner N, Henriksen T, Bo K. Why do pregnant women stop exercising in the third trimester? Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica. 2009; 88(11): 1267-75. [Abstract]
- American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Exercise during pregnancy [online]. ACOG 2003 [cited June 2010]. Available: URL: http://www.acog.org/publications/patient_education/bp119.cfm
- Nutrition Australia: Physical Activity During Pregnancy [online]. Sports Nutrition 2010 [cited June 2010]. Available from: URL: http://www.nutritionaustralia.org/national/resources
- Top recommended exercises [online]. American Pregnancy Association, 2008 [cited July 2010]. Available from URL: http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/toprecommendedexercises.html