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exercising while pregnant: a pregnant woman hiking

WHY YOU SHOULD MOVE YOUR BUMP

Happy New Year to you all!

I hope you were able to enjoy yourself in spite of the ongoing global situation.

This month, each week we’re going to be taking a theme around pregnancy and postpartum health and wellness, with the intention to break down myths and debunk taboos, so you can feel empowered on your journey into and through motherhood.

This week we’re going to be discussing the benefits of exercise for pregnancy.

So why should you be moving your bump??

Pregnancy is wonderful and exciting, but is also pretty daunting – and that’s even without lockdowns! Your body is going through so many changes and challenges; physically, emotionally and hormonally. There are also so many mixed messages about what you can, can’t, should and shouldn’t be doing so it can be super confusing!

What IS clear now though is that exercise is good for both you and your baby. Government guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise every week, with at least two of those sessions being strength sessions.

JUST 10 REASONS WHY IT’S GOOD TO MOVE YOUR BUMP:

  1. Helps you to prepare for labour by strengthening your body and overall endurance. 
  2. Helps to reduce backache, constipation, bloating and swelling. As well as common aches and pains in the shoulders and hips.
  3. Helps your body to recover after birth. Especially if you have been consistent with your pelvic floor and deep core exercises throughout pregnancy.
  4. May help prevent, or treat gestational diabetes.
  5. Increases your energy levels.
  6. Improves circulation.
  7. Helps to relieve stress and muscle tension.
  8. Improves your posture which in turn helps you to combat those postural changes that occur in pregnancy.
  9. Encourages better sleep, so hopefully you can get some!
  10. Helps you strengthen your body so you are ready for life as a new mum. Those buggies are heavy! 

IS IT SAFE FOR EVERYONE?

In most instances exercise is completely safe and recommended.

As your pregnancy progresses, your weight will inevitably creep up. Not just because of your growing bump, but your boobs, the placenta, amniotic fluid – even the volume of blood increases 50% in a pregnant woman so you can cope with the growing uterus.

This is all completely natural. UK guidelines say that if you have a normal BMI you can expect to put on between 11-16kg. So exercise is not about losing weight but about getting your body strong and ready for pregnancy, birth and beyond.

If you have been exercising regularly already you should continue as you are, whilst following the below guidelines, making pregnancy adaptations and reducing the intensity as your pregnancy progresses. If you are new to exercise, then just start gently and seek to work with a specialist who can check that you’re doing the exercises correctly.

Prior to your pregnancy exercise journey, just please ensure that you have got the OK from your GP. Exercise doesn’t increase your chance of a miscarriage if you have a low risk pregnancy, however in some instances it’s a contraindication. So you are deemed anything other than low risk please follow guidance from your GP.

GUIDELINES TO KEEP IN MIND:

  1. CHOOSE YOUR EXERCISES CAREFULLY. Look to get in 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercises per week, including 2x strength sessions. Strength should focus on things that you will do as a mum: squats, lunges, lifting. Don’t forget the back of the body, your deep abs and pelvic floor too. Avoid contact sports, rapid changes in direction, and any risk of falling e.g. kickboxing, high impact dance classes, netball, horse riding, skiing, hockey.
  1. KEEP MOBILE BY STRETCHING REGULARLY. This will help to relieve common aches and pains in the neck, back and hips. However avoid anything that means you’re over-stretching, bouncing or collapsing into your flexibility. Try to only go to about 80% of your full range and be mindful of the increasing bouts of relaxin and progesterone that are making you more supple. This, combined with increasing weight, means it is necessary to exercise with awareness of your body’s changing capabilities.
  1. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. If you’re feeling tired give yourself a break. Choose yoga instead of a strength session. Mid-way through a workout? Take a break, a timeout or simply stop.
  1. GO SLOW(ER) Work to about 80% of your normal pre-pregnancy intensity. A good guide is to ask yourself if you can hold a conversation. If you can, this is the right intensity; if not slow it down a tad. Maybe try and count to 10? You don’t ever want to exercise to the point of exhaustion.
  1. DRINK WATER. Stay hydrated by taking regular sips as you exercise.
  1. WORK YOUR ABS IN THE CORRECT WAY. It’s super important that you work your deep abs in pregnancy. These support your bump, helping you carry your bump with limited discomfort, they also help in the second stage of labour. However avoid traditional ab exercises that work your six pack muscles as this can exaggerate ab separation – diastasis recti.
  1. KEEP OPEN. Try and open up through the front of the body as much as possible. Releasing through your hip flexors too. HOWEVER watch for putting too much strain on the font of the tummy which is already on a stretch. 
  1. AVOID CLOSED TWISTS. We don’t want to squish your bubba 🙂
  1. BE MINDFUL OF LYING ON YOUR BACK. Although latest research says you don’t need to avoid supine exercises from your 2nd trimester – ie bridges, be mindful of how it makes you feel. If you start to feel uncomfortable or start to feel dizzy as your pregnancy progresses then perhaps leave them out and look for an alternative.
  1.  REMEMBER TO MARVEL AT YOUR BODY. Even if you don’t love it right now. Marvel at what it’s doing, how it’s changing and growing. It wont be this way forever.

IN SUMMARY

If your pregnancy is low risk and your health care provider has said you can exercise you should move! If you’re currently not active, start slowly. Already active? Keep moving. But if you’re unsure, work with a professional who can keep an eye on your form. If there is anytime to invest in your health then this is the time.

Lettie, Founder of Planet Mama x