Pregnancy brings about significant physical changes that affect how your body functions over nine months and beyond. Generally, unless medical limitations indicate otherwise, women are encouraged to continue with or start an exercise programme and to keep moving. Common pregnancy symptoms including back pain, nausea, excessive weight gain and varicose veins can be prevented or reduced with exercise.
If unused to exercising, it is recommended you start with 15 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise three times a week, gradually increasing to 30 minutes, four times a week.
Sports to avoid include skiing, kick-boxing, ice-skating, horse-riding and outdoor cycling to protect from falls, abdominal stress and other potential injuries. Instead, consider Pilates and yoga or the slightly more vigorous walking or dancing. Swimming is a good choice as being in water relieves joint pressure and helps support increasing baby weight.
Seasoned exerciser or not, it’s important not to overheat, so intense activity should be avoided and a moderate programme adopted, shown to make the placenta more effective in transporting blood, nutrients and oxygen to the foetus. At around 16 weeks, exercises where you lie on your back should be stopped as there is a risk of reducing the flow of blood back to the heart.
The pregnancy hormone, relaxin, allows the pelvis to expand gently enabling the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles to stretch in anticipation of labour. Pelvic floor muscles help support the increasing weight of the baby and performing pelvic floor exercises can even prevent stress incontinence.
It’s important to maintain a well-balanced and nutrient rich diet and pregnancy alone requires an additional 200-300 calories a day and more when exercising. Eat regularly throughout the day, specifically have a light snack approximately two hours prior to training and drink water before, during and after exercise.
Every pregnancy is individual so it’s best to seek the advice of a trainer with an ante- and postnatal qualification. Do listen to your body and if you experience any unusual symptoms, stop exercising and consult your doctor.
Always consult your doctor before starting an exercise programme.