Exercising during pregnancy or staying active is part and parcel of looking after yourself. But there is a balance to be struck.
You need to make sure that you get plenty of rest too. And of course, before trying anything new in terms of exercise or keeping fit during pregnancy, have a chat with your doctor or midwife. Likewise, if you have any concerns, share them with a health professional.
How long should you exercise for?
This will vary depending on the exercise you are doing and your fitness level. As a rule of thumb, aim for half an hour of dedicated physical exercise on most days. The important thing is to get active and get your blood flowing!
What else do I need to know?
If it hurts or is uncomfortable, STOP
Your balance will be affected as your bump grows
Rest is just as important to exercise
Stay hydrated and don’t get too hot
Keep a stash of incontinence pads for when you exercise
The six key benefits of exercising throughout pregnancy
Reduces backache, bloating, constipation and swelling
With pregnancy hormones surging, it is tempting to simply curl up in a ball and wait for nausea, the swelling and the aching back to pass.
But getting up and being active – and doing so regularly – will help to keep all these issues at bay:
Constipation – when you feel sick in early pregnancy, your appetite may disappear. That means less fibre which can lead to constipation. Get moving and you’ll find you may be hungry and it will also be good for food transit time too!
Swelling and bloating – common problems brought about hormones and water retention.
Backache – with a growing bump at the front of your body, your lower back will soon start to grumble. Exercise strengthens and tones muscles, especially the lower back.
You wouldn’t run 26 miles without training for it. This means regular runs, as well as eating healthily and staying hydrated. Labour and birth are similar to a marathon run. From your first contraction to the last push when your baby arrives, it is an extra strain on your physical and emotional well-being. Staying active, with a good diet and plenty of hydration places you in a better position to face labour and birth.
Tones important muscles
As well as being great for maintaining your weight, exercise and activity keep your muscles toned and strong. And there is one muscle, in particular, you want in great working order – the pelvic floor muscle.
This is the muscle that runs from front to back in your pelvis. It keeps all your organs in place and also helps you control your bladder. A weak pelvic floor muscle or one damaged by birth can lead to incontinence, a problem that many women ‘put up with’.
With pelvic floor exercises to specifically keep this muscle strong along with general activity, you may find labour and birth ‘easier’ too.
Looks after mood
See-sawing hormones to message given off by other people, there is a range of pressures placed on you that can leave you feeling low.
Even when baby arrives, the euphoria may be tinged with the black cloud of depression. Activity is not the magic answer – postnatal depression may require medical treatment – but it certainly goes a long way in managing depression, anxiety and stress.
Pregnancy and sleep don’t always go hand in hand. And this means you can be lethargic and fatigued, leading to other problems such as feeling faint.
Exercise can help you sleep better but don’t use activity as a means of ‘wearing yourself out’. However, a brisk daily walk, coupled with a nap to keep fatigue at bay, has been known to help a pregnant woman enjoy a better night’s rest.
May prevent gestational diabetes
The weight of your growing baby squashing your pancreas can lead to gestational diabetes. But when you are overweight, this effect is magnified. By keeping your weight in check, exercising and eating a balanced and varied diet, you could avoid it.
There are other factors that indicate you may be at a higher risk of gestational diabetes. If you concerned, talked to your midwife.
HARTMANN Direct work with many soon-to-be mums and new mums to stay active whilst managing incontinence with discreet pads and pants.