Taking regular exercise will help you have an easier pregnancy and give you more stamina to cope with giving birth.
If you’re fit, you are likely to get back into shape more easily after the birth and you will have more energy to cope with the demands of a new baby.
If you already follow an exercise routine then – providing your GP agrees – there is no reason why you shouldn’t continue with it. If you want to try something new, or start a vigorous exercise regime, you should always check with your midwife or GP first. If regular exercise hasn’t been part of your lifestyle, now is the time to find something that you enjoy and build it into your weekly routine.
Choosing an exercise
Whether you prefer to exercise on your own or in a group, activities that are excellent during pregnancy include swimming, walking, stationary cycling, prenatal aerobics and aqua-natal classes. Yoga and T’ai chi are also good choices as they will stretch and strengthen your muscles. Avoid racket and contact sports and any form of exercise that jars your joints, such as jogging and high-impact aerobics.
It is important not to exercise on your back once you start to get big, so from the fourth month onwards adapt any exercises that you would normally do lying flat so that you are sitting, standing or lying on your side – if you can’t adapt them, don’t do them.
For the first few weeks of a new programme you should exercise in short sessions, three times a week.
Start with a warm-up, followed by 15 minutes of aerobic activity and finish with some simple stretches and breathing exercises. Once you are comfortable with this, you can gradually increase your aerobic sessions until you reach a maximum of 30 minutes.
Always check with your doctor before starting any new form of exercise. If you are continuing an existing exercise programme, be prepared to cut down on the amount you do as your pregnancy advances.
o Stop immediately if you feel faint, light-headed or breathless during exercise.
o Always wear a supportive bra when exercising.
o Exercise at a gentle, rhythmical pace and avoid making jerky or bouncing movements.
o Listen to your body and don’t push yourself.
o If you attend classes or go to the gym, tell your instructor that you are pregnant.
o Start to reduce the amount of exercise you do as your pregnancy advances.
o Never skip the warm-up or cool down stretches when doing aerobic exercise.
o Some yoga poses are not suitable for pregnancy so always check with your teacher or go to a prenatal class.
Pelvic floor exercises
These strengthen the muscles that support the womb, bladder and bowel, which get stretched during pregnancy. Exercise these frequently by drawing in the back passage as if to avoid passing wind, and hold for a count of four.