If you’re reading this, you may well have embarked on the wondrous journey of pregnancy; the most magical that the human body is capable of taking on. That aside, right now you may well be feeling sick, tired, spotty, podgy, ugly, tearful, grumpy, or all the above – sort of like duffed-up Snow White and her seven rubbish sidekicks. So, it’s understandable that exercise may well be the last thing on your mind and rest assured, I am not here to preach to those who have either been advised against it or to those who feel that keeping fit couldn’t be further from the list of things to do whilst a fetus hijacks your uterus. This is a time for relaxation. FINALLY we get to consume our bodyweight in pastry guilt-free and let nature take its course whilst we marvel at the beauty of life creation.
If you do, however, feel an urge for a bit of physical activity (other than the kind that will appease Snow White’s other well-known sidekick symptom ‘major horn’), exercise does have many positive benefits whilst pregnant. It’s not about losing weight or increasing fitness levels during this time so don’t push yourself. Keeping fit during pregnancy is about your own personal wellbeing and the positive effects that it can also have on the baby as a result. Here are just a few of the many advantages;
- Improved circulation between mother and baby via the placenta
- Less backache, improved posture and reduction in common pregnancy symptoms
- Faster postnatal recovery
- Control of excess weight gain
- Enhanced maternal wellbeing
- Improved sleep patterns
- Positive effect on ability to cope with labour and childbirth
- Decreased stress, anxiety and fatigue
- Helping baby into optimal position for birth
From my own personal experience, I would highly recommend pregnancy fitness classes as you also get to meet other expectant Mummies who you can relate to and bond with. I loved my pregnancy yoga classes, particularly when we could laugh at eachother getting stuck in certain poses or one of us had a bad case of Snow White’s other unwelcome sidekick ‘flatulence’ mid child’s pose. 😉
I know how hard it can be to squeeze in fitness, particularly if you’re at work all day, too knackered to go to an evening class, or if this isn’t your first and you’ve got other little cherubs siphoning your last bit of energy. So, I’ve handpicked a few of my favourite antenatal exercises which I did at home during my own pregnancy and also now incorporate into my pregnancy fitness classes. The advantage being that you can do these in the comfort of your own home and in your own time. Here’s a link to my Wonder Bump Antenatal Exercises blog
Typical Exercises or Classes for Pregnant Women:
Walking / Light Jogging
Light to moderate resistance training
Things to be aware of if partaking in exercise whilst pregnant:
Posture – the growing baby can throw your body weight forwards and tilt your pelvis forwards, making balance difficult. Be wary of over-compensating by increasing the curve of the lower back. Always be aware of keeping neutral spine alignment by lifting your chin and chest.
Relaxin – this hormone which relaxes the ligaments and separation of joint surfaces to accommodate the growing baby is produced around the second week of pregnancy and reaches its highest level by the end of the first trimester. The effect relaxin has on fibrous tissue in the body takes approximately 3-5 months after birth to return to normal. Due to the effect of this hormone, it’s best to incorporate smaller stances when the legs are placed wide apart, and avoid developmental stretches when lengthening muscles in pilates, yoga or in cool down stretches.
Energy – After 18 weeks, the body requires an additional 300 calories per day to meet the demands of pregnancy. If undertaking exercise, ensure you are consuming enough calories to compensate for those lost.
Blood sugar levels – Eat regularly. Pregnant ladies are more prone to hypoglycaemia or gestational diabetes as they burn increased levels of carbs and are more resistant to insulin. Snack 2-3 hours before and after exercise.
Body temperature – Maternal temperature is slightly raised by 0.5 degrees during pregnancy so it’s important to not undertake exercise that will further increase your temperature. Make sure you drink water, little and often.
Fitness level – If you have given up exercise in the first trimester but return during the second, the return should be gentle to cope with getting back to fitness following the break as well as the added demands of pregnancy.
Exercise Type – In your second and third trimesters, avoid exercises involving jumping to protect your pelvic floor muscles, and exercises involving lying on your back or standing for too long to avoid supine or postural hypotensive syndrome.
Abdominal muscles – During pregnancy, the ab muscles stretch both widthways and lengthways to accommodate the growing baby. Avoid any twisting and crunches during pregnancy once the muscles have begun to stretch. Abdominal muscles help to control the tilt of the pelvis and stabilise the spine so it’s important to exercise them and appropriate conditioning will help you to regain the strength and tone afterwards. Appropriate exercises are static abdominal contractions such as pelvic tilts, contracting the muscles on all fours, adapted half plank, and superman pose.
Please get in touch if would like any information or advice on keeping fit during pregnancy, my antenatal personal training sessions, or if you would like attend my antenatal fitness class Bump N’ Grind on Wednesday evenings at 7:45pm at Old Walcountians Club (SM7 3HU).