There are numerous potential health benefits for women who exercise during pregnancy, including better weight control, improved mood and maintenance of fitness levels. Regular exercise during pregnancy can also decrease the risk of pregnancy-related complications such as pregnancy-induced hypertension and pre-eclampsia. Women at high risk for preterm birth or bleeding during pregnancy, or those who have medical complications such as high blood pressure, may need to avoid exercise, so should seek advice from their obstetrician, general practitioner or midwife.
Exercise suggestions during pregnancy
Do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week.
Let your body be your guide. You know you’re at a good exercise intensity when you can talk normally (but cannot sing) and do not become exhausted too quickly.
If you are healthy and you are not experiencing complications in your pregnancy, continue this level of activity throughout pregnancy, or until it becomes uncomfortable for you to do so.
If you have been cleared to exercise, but you were inactive before your pregnancy:
Start with low-intensity exercises such as walking or swimming, and build up to moderate intensity activity. You can start with separate sessions of 15 minutes each, and build up to longer durations.
Cautions for pregnancy exercise
While most forms of exercise are safe, there are some exercises that involve positions and movements that may be uncomfortable or harmful for pregnant women.
Avoid raising your body temperature too high: reduce your level of exercise on hot or humid days. Stay well hydrated.
Don't exercise to the point of exhaustion: work at less than 75 per cent of your maximum heart rate.
If weight training, choose low weights and medium to high repetitions – avoid lifting heavy weights altogether.
Perform controlled stretching and avoid over-extending.
Don’t increase the intensity of your sporting program while you are pregnant
Avoid supine exercise position (lying on your back) – the weight of the baby can slow the return of blood to the heart; some of these exercises can be modified by lying on your side
In addition, if you develop an illness or a complication of pregnancy, talk with your doctor or midwife before continuing or restarting your exercise program.
Pelvic floor exercises and pregnancy
Your pelvic floor muscles are weakened during pregnancy and during birth, so it is extremely important to begin conditioning the pelvic floor muscles from the start of your pregnancy. Appropriate exercises can be prescribed by a physiotherapist. It is important to continue with these throughout your pregnancy and resume as soon as is comfortable after the birth.
Warning signs when exercising during pregnancy
If you experience any of the following during or after physical activity, stop exercising immediately and see your doctor:
dizziness or feeling faint
swelling of the face, hands or feet
calf pain or swelling
deep back, pubic or pelvic pain
cramping in the lower abdomen
an unusual change in your baby’s movements
amniotic fluid leakage
unusual shortness of breath
At Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy our physiotherapists will be able to guide you through this whole process performing an assessment to determine your individual needs and goals. They will then assist you with an individualised program targeted towards your goals and best suited to your needs.
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