Exercise is usually recommended during pregnancy unless specified by a doctor. Pregnant mothers are especially terrified of working out during pregnancy in fear of going into premature labor or harming the baby. Whereas, studies prove that exercise during the ninth month of pregnancy makes normal delivery easier and less eventful. A little modification may be required to accommodate normal anatomic and physiologic changes and the fetal requirements during pregnancy, otherwise, it is completely safe to exercise during pregnancy. Benefits of Exercise during Pregnancy
- Balance weight gain
- Reduces the risk of gestational diabetes in obese women
- Reduces stress
- Induces normal vaginal delivery
- Helps turn a breech fetal position into a normal position
- Relieves constipation
- Speeds up postpartum recovery
Precautions To Take During Pregnancy
It is always a good idea to be aware of the precautions to take while exercising during pregnancy.
- Don’t exercise on your back after the first trimester. It is best to avoid exercising while lying on your back, since the weight of the baby may interfere with proper blood circulation. Long periods of standing should also be avoided.
- Don’t hold your breath while you exercise. Proper ventilation is necessary.
- Avoid exercises that involve the risk of abdominal trauma, falls or excessive joint stress. Do not jump or use jerky, twisting motions to add insult to your already stressed joints.
- Listen to your body. Soon you will have less oxygen available for exercise, so stop when you feel fatigued.
- Prevent dehydration as it can lead to premature labor contractions.
- Avoid hot tub and using any bath salts.
- Do not squat if the baby is breech. This is because squatting will force the fetus to descend the birth canal without giving it the chance to move into a proper position. Talk to your doctor to make sure your baby is head down before you try squatting.
How to start an exercise program?
- Always start with low-impact exercises, such as walking, at a level that does not cause pain, shortness of breath or excessive fatigue.
- Slowly increase your activity. During the second and third trimester, the body releases a hormone called “relaxin” that loosens the ligaments and joints in preparation for labor.3. For your final month, do mini workouts and gentle exercises which do not put undue stress on your joints.4. Eat a well-balanced diet. Normally during pregnancy, there is an increase in your food requirements by 300 calories a day. Do not overeat.
When To Stop Exercising?
An expectant mother must stop exercising if she experiences:
- Any sudden or severe abdominal pain
- Vaginal bleeding or spotting
- Contractions that go on for more than 30 minutes even after you have stopped exercising
- Chest pain or severe shortness of breath
- Amniotic fluid leakage
- Headache and dizziness
- Muscle weakness affecting balance
- Calf pain or swelling
Safest Exercises To Do During Pregnancy
- Get the Exercise Ball: For a good pregnancy workout after 37 weeks, get the exercise ball. An exercise ball is the safest, effective tool for strengthening core muscles during pregnancy. And it can also provide relaxation and physical relief during pregnancy and labor. Choose a high-quality ball made from burst-resistant material. Be sure to inflate it to the correct size for your height: 55 centimeters for women shorter than five foot three, and 65 centimeters for taller women.
- Aerobics: You can never undermine the power of aerobics, whether you are trying to get in shape, lose some weight or just change your mood.
- Walking is one of the best exercises during pregnancy for normal delivery. It creates flexibility, relieves constipation, restlessness and high blood pressure. It is easy on your knees and ankles and just plain easy. The side-to-side swaying of your hips will also ease the way of your baby’s head into the pelvis, giving you a leg up on labor. Long walks in the park have actually brought on contractions leading people into a normal vaginal delivery.
- Swimming is best for women in their first trimester, however, it can be done in the ninth month as well. It is a good way to stretch and tone your muscles. It regulates heartbeat, prevents muscle injury, strengthens your muscles and keeps you fit. Avoid scuba diving and deep-sea diving as lack of oxygen can be dangerous for you and the baby.
- Climbing stairs during the ninth month of pregnancy can make your baby’s head drop down into the birth canal opening the pelvic region and pressing onto the cervix to cause dilation. These, all together, begin the contractions and gets you ready for normal vaginal delivery.
- Pelvic Exercises: Exercises of the pelvic floor are considered one of the most effective exercises during 9th month of pregnancy. It should be done on a pillow, ball or chair.
- Pelvic Stretch: Keep your feet fixed on the ground, stretch your legs away from each other and keep your back straight. This will then lead to stretching and shifting of your pelvis onward and backward. Depending on your comfort level, repeat at least 20 times.
- Cobbler Pose/ Tailor Pose: It Is a simple exercise that strengthens and stretches muscles of the back, thighs and pelvis. It keeps your pelvic joints flexible, eases blood flow to your lower body, and eases labor. It also helps in building good flexibility and maintaining endurance power.
- Kegel Exercises are a must for women of all ages as they strengthen pelvic muscles. They are wonderfully effective in inducing labor among pregnant women, especially those who are overdue. Kegel exercises also help fight urinary incontinence, urinary tract infections and sexual lethargy. While these exercises are important during pregnancy, health experts suggest that women do the Kegel throughout their life. Doing the Kegel keeps the vagina tight and the bladder healthy. How To Do: Release and contract the pelvic muscles, the muscles that are involved in stopping the flow of urine, for about 10 seconds 10-15 times a day is a good way to get the pelvic muscles ready for delivery.
Squatting actually speeds labor because it increases the pelvic opening, providing room for the baby to descend. It helps in contraction and loosening of the pelvic muscles during pregnancy which reduces pain during delivery. Squatting during the third trimester also helps strengthen leg muscles which are a must when it comes to labor and the final push to give birth. It also eases constipation and pressure on the pelvic floor which can be a blessing during the last few weeks of pregnancy. It is suggested that you start working squats at 39 weeks of pregnancy so you’ll be a stronger squatter when the time of delivery comes.
This is an ancient form of exercise which is also great during pregnancy. It gives elasticity and increases endurance power. With adequate knowledge of yoga postures, you can prepare your body better for normal delivery. Yoga not only reduces pregnancy-related stress, anxiety, and pain but also improves the quality of sleep and rests during pregnancy. Remember to modify the intensity of yoga according to the stage of pregnancy and the strain it puts on the body. Avoid lying down on the floor, doing forward and back bending postures. Stop if you experience strain, dizziness and body aches.
- Pregnancy Pilates
Pilates is a fantastic way for women to build core stability during pregnancy. The core weakens as the bump grows leading to back pain and sciatica. Pilates is a low-impact pregnancy workout, involving a series of controlled movements mostly on an exercise mat. It is certainly a very effective workout during pregnancy as it targets the tummy and pelvic floor muscles which tend to weaken during pregnancy. Most Pilates exercises for pregnant women are performed on the hands and knees, which is an ideal position during pregnancy and takes stress off the back and pelvis, and positions your baby ready for delivery.
The lunges are a great way to warm up the hips and give more room for the baby to rotate and descend. To be safe, you can take as support of your partner or a wall when performing these lunges. How To Do: Stand with your two legs together and take one big step ahead. Position one leg forward with your knee bent while the other leg is positioned behind.
The most important thing is to practice Only what you are comfortable with. Do Not start any exercise routine without consulting your gynecologist.
About the Author:
Hina Fatima is a graduate of Dow Medical College, Karachi, currently residing in California. She works as a Clinical Research Scientist at Fresno Clinical Research Center. She is also a certified NLP Practitioner and helps people improve their mental and emotional health. She is a proud mother of two daughters and has lived in Pakistan and USA. She suffered from postpartum depression herself and understands the plight of women and the emotional ups and downs they go through for which they are harshly judged. It is her passion to help women walk through their difficult phases in life. If you want to learn more about “Emotional Intelligence”, and how it can help you, reach out to her at [email protected]
Boss Women Pakistan is committed to playing a positive role in creating awareness about women’s health issues. These articles are for the sake of starting a conversation. We strongly recommend consulting your doctor or caregiver before practicing any physical or therapeutic treatments.