The do’s and don’ts of exercise during pregnancy

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If your pregnancy has been relatively smooth and without complications, and you have always maintained a good level of physical fitness before your pregnancy, with the doctor’s green light, it is completely fine for you to continue to exercise throughout the pregnancy.

However, if you haven’t been physically active before your pregnancy, this is not the time to challenge your limits! That is not to say you will not benefit from some form of exercise. As long as the doctor is satisfied with your health condition, light exercises for 30 minutes each day can help to minimize excess pregnancy weight gains, boost energy levels, and lift your moods.

For expectant mums who are experiencing a complicated pregnancy such as cervix problems, or blood and thyroid issues, you will need to exercise caution and consult the doctor on the suitable exercises for your condition.

So how intense should your workouts be? As a general rule of thumb, you should feel a little shortness of breath, but not to the extend that you can’t talk at the same time.



Take note of these changes in your body during pregnancy


Posture

Your body will experience gradual changes throughout your pregnancy, the most prominent change you will notice is that your core strength will start to weaken, causing your posture to be compromised into the “duck bottom”. Building and maintaining a strong core during your pregnancy will help to tuck your tail bone in, and is key to keep a balanced posture to prevent low back aches.


Heart Rate

You will also notice that your heart rate changes during pregnancy, so you should no longer use your heart rate as a measure of how hard to push yourself in pregnancy.


Swelling in hand, feet and ankles

Be careful if you want to practice yoga during your pregnancy, as it can put a lot of pressure on your ankles.
 

Body temperature

Your base body temperature will rise during pregnancy, so you are at a great risk of overheating when you exercise. Be mindful of this and, plan your workouts at cooler times of the day such as early morning, at the end of the day, or if possible, pick an air-conditioned location.
 

Loose joints and ligaments

The hormone Relaxin which is produced during your pregnancy to help your pelvis and hip joints with childbirth also causes loose and soft ligaments, muscles, and joints in the rest of your body. So avoid high impact sports which can easily lead to injuries.


What exercises should you avoid during pregnancy?

Avoid:

  • Contact sports such as netball and rugby
  • Exercising in extreme heat
  • Exercises that require you to be on your back past 16 weeks of pregnancy, as it puts pressure on the vessel running up your spine - You can still lie on your back – but with your pelvis lifted, so that the pressure is not entirely on your back and stomach
  • Exercises that cause pain, or require you to hold your breath, such as weightlifting - Strength training is good but avoid exercises where you really have to strain yourself to lift a weight
  • In your last trimester – avoid lifting heavy weights due to increase in abdominal pressure and pressure on pelvic floor. Stick to light weights instead


Do these essential strengthening exercises to prepare your body for childbirth

  1. Shoulders, neck muscles and biceps - Wall push ups, rows with bands, biceps curls with water bottles
  2. Squats – squats are the best preparation to get ready for childbirth
  3. Pelvic floor exercises – do them at least 3 times a day
  4. Deep abdominal muscles, eg. Yoga or pilates that engages your core. Helps to support your back

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Kelly graduated with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy from The University of Notre Dame, Western Australia in 2007. After a short stint in the public health sector, Kelly began working in a highly reputable Sports and Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Clinic. Kelly’s caseload included a variety of sports, musculoskeletal, gender health and continence and post-surgical patients. As part of her role as a senior physiotherapist, Kelly managed the inpatient list on a busy maternity ward which is where her passion for obstetrics and women’s health began.

After spending the first part of her career juggling work, athletics and travel, Kelly decided to pursue her passion for Women’s Health and completed a Graduate Certificate in Continence and Women's Health through Curtin University. Upon completion of her course, Kelly worked for a specialist Women’s and Men’s Health and Continence Clinic where she gained further experience in the assessment and management of ante-natal and post-natal conditions, incontinence, post prostatectomy complications and pelvic pain disorders.

Kelly believes in taking a holistic approach to patient care. This enables her to determine both the physical and non-physical factors contributing to the condition and to tailor an individualised management plan.