A lot has changed since the day’s pregnant women were expected to spend nine months with their feet up and it is widely acknowledged that exercising during pregnancy has both physical and psychological benefits for mother and baby throughout pregnancy, labour, and beyond.
Pre-natal training is booming and subject to a few exceptions (ice hockey and rugby most definitely off the table), there are many options to stay fit and healthy during pregnancy. You may just need to make a few modifications on the way depending on what stage you're at.
Completely new to exercise? This is not the time to jump into a five times a week gymnastics program. However, that doesn’t mean to say you can’t start something less intense. You just need to start slow and give yourself adequate rest to allow your body to fully recover.
Training already? You can carry on with most forms of exercise but just be prepared to reign it in when necessary, rest more, and make modifications.
This is not the time for PB’s.
Great things do come when you stay in your comfort zone.
So why now…
Improved wellbeing – This is HUGE. Some women enjoy every second of their pregnancy (good for them) but if you’re not having the time of your life, exercising can help get you in a better headspace. Never more necessary than right now.
Reduced-fat gain - You are going to get fatter. Unfortunately, this is part of the process and your body needs that extra energy source for a healthy pregnancy and baby. How much extra energy you choose to pile on is kind of down to you. (Your body needs roughly two to three kilos of extra fat for pregnancy and birth all relative to your starting weight) but there is clearly the opportunity to add a lot more than this. It’s all down to how much you eat and how much you move so if you’re giving in to cravings slightly more than you should, exercise can limit the damage.
Reduced diabetes risk – gestational diabetes can occur during pregnancy where blood sugar levels are too high and the body can’t produce enough insulin to control it. Diabetes causes problems for you and your baby if not properly controlled and you’ll be more at risk if you are overweight or putting on too much weight. Your blood sugar can be reduced and controlled by a) reducing the amount of sugar you take in (diet) or b) using the additional sugar in your blood for energy (exercise) so a good time to get moving.
Improved posture – as your baby grows your posture changes and it’s common to find your upper back and shoulders rounding due to the increased weight at the front of your body. In addition, your pelvis can start to tilt forwards due to the increased weight of your belly leading to lower back pain. Strengthening the back of the body (particularly the back and glutes) will help to improve your posture and prevent any associated pain and discomfort. The aim is to make life as comfortable as possible!
Improved body image – your body image can have a huge effect on your mental wellbeing. Watching my body change beyond my control hasn’t always been a positive experience. Bigger boobs, all over it, but seeing your waist disappear and your clothes shrink takes a bit of getting used to (and I’ll admit the occasional meltdown in the early days). Training helps you appreciate your body (which may seem a little alien at times) for what it can do physically and reminds you that you are still a strong, independent woman.
Healthier baby and fewer complications - Exercising during pregnancy leads to healthier babies with fewer complications during pregnancy and birth. Not much more to say on that one.
Sleep and stress – unfortunately, two aspects of health that tend to suffer during pregnancy. Exercising during pregnancy (or at any time) can help you get better, deeper sleep, and lower stress levels.
Quicker recovery – the stronger and fitter you are going into birth, the quicker you’ll be able to recover afterwards. Simple.
Easier and shorter labour – Not convinced by any of the above? Hang in there. Women that stay fit and healthy during pregnancy have shorter, easier labours with fewer complications. The fitter you are, the more stamina you’ll have for labour, and the better your ability cope. Easy!