There are a few key rules and things to remember when it comes to safe exercise during pregnancy; there’s still a lot that you can do, but certain exercises may put your or your baby at risk. Here’s what you need to think about when exercising while pregnant:
Always check with your health specialist first
This is your number one rule. Generally, if you’ve been a regular exerciser in the leadup to falling pregnant and your pregnancy is uncomplicated, you can usually continue working out as you have been doing with certain safety exceptions which we’ll cover off next. However, depending on your individual situation, exercising during pregnancy may not be suitable so it’s best to talk to your GP or midwife about your fitness regime first.
Warm up and cool down properly
These are the bits that always get left off workouts, but they are important – and even more so when you’re pregnant! Warming up lubricates your joints and allows your heart rate to build slowly, while taking the time to cool down and stretch your body means your heart rate will drop slowly and decrease your chance of injury and soreness post-workout.
Don’t push yourself too hard
Pregnancy is not the time to be overdoing it when it comes to exercise. If you feel pain, can’t catch your breath/carry on a conversation, or if a movement is really uncomfortable, it’s a sign to stop. Avoid any kinds of contact sports and remember that your balance will be changing as your center of gravity shifts due to belly growth throughout your pregnancy, so be careful of activities that may throw you off balance. Get up from the floor slowly to avoid dizziness.
Also, when you’re pregnant your body increases its production of the hormone relaxin, which loosens up your joints and ligaments. The reason for this is to loosen your pelvic joints to prepare for childbirth, however it also happens to the rest of your body so you will have increased risk of strains and sprains.
Don’t let yourself overheat
While baby is growing, he/she is unable to regulate their own body temperature which is why it’s important to avoid overheating when you exercise; especially during the first trimester. Your body will have produced extra blood and your metabolism will have increased, which is why you may already be feeling warmer than average (and this can make you overheat faster during training).
Ensure you wear loose-fitting clothing that breathes well and shoes that provide good support and cushioning for your feet. It’s normal for your feet to swell during pregnancy so buy a new pair of training shoes to wear while you’re pregnant if your old shoes don’t fit.
It’s important to stay well hydrated throughout your fitness session so always have a nice big cold bottle of water handy; at least have a decent drink before, during and after your exercise.
If you feel too hot, dizzy, nauseous or have difficulty breathing, it’s a sign that you need to take a break from what you’re doing and cool down. Get some fresh air, take off any sweatshirts etc., find a fan or air conditioning or have a cold shower to reduce your body temperature.
Avoid lying flat on your back or doing crunches
Lying on your back can reduce the blood flow to your heart, uterus and brain, which may cause you to become nauseous or dizzy. Although it may feel comfortable, it’s not a safe position and there are always substitute exercises you can do instead. Crunches – and this seems an obvious one but it has to be said – have you flat on your back and also crunching up can place strain on the baby. Instead of crunches, opt for core balance activities such as donkey position (on your hands and knees) and performing an alternating superman (opposite arm/opposite leg go straight out in front/behind level with your body, then return to all fours and swap to other side).
Image / FreeDigitalPhotos.net – David Castillo Dominici