Exercise during pregnancy has been discussed frequently these past decades. Both of these considered as normal part of life and are on going process.
Combination of exercise and reproduction state appears to be beneficial to the mother and also the baby. Your goal is to maintain healthy lifestyle throughout the pregnancy.
Pregnancy involves changes in physiological parameters and growth for both the mother and the baby. The mother’s well being and nutritional status will determine the baby’s development.
Of course the mother wanted the best condition for her baby throughout the course of pregnancy. But some mothers are afraid to engage in physical activity during pregnancy as they have myths such as miscarriage, poor fetal growth, premature labor and higher risk of musculoskeletal injury. There is no clear evidence to support this myths in normal pregnancy.
There are actual benefits if the mother are continuing their routine exercise as usual or newly engaging exercise during pregnancy.
The following are the benefits in engaging weight bearing activities during pregnancy :
- improve cardiovascular and respiratory fitness
- weight gain control without restricting baby growth
- fasten post partum recovery
- improves psychological well being
During the first trimester, there are minimal changes on the mother but there are major changes in physiological states. In low-level intensity exercise, there aren’t many changes in blood pressure and pulse compared to non-pregnant woman, but fatigues set-in early during exercise.
As pregnancy progresses, there is expansion of blood volume and enlargement of uterus as reflected by increase in weight. At this point, the fetus is undergoing important stage of growth including organs and limbs development. They should avoid exercise that will increase their body temperature too much.
Attentions have to be made in ensuring balance between energy consumption and expenditure, nutritional aspect, hydration and adequate rest.
Pregnant woman appears to have a better core body temperature regulation if they are fit and well hydrated. They are also well adapted to different core body temperature variation. Loose and bright fitting and cool environment reduces the risk of heat-related illnesses.
Particular exposure to certain environment that predispose to low (high altitude) or high air pressure (deep sea) should be avoided such as mountain climbing or scuba. This would compromises the oxygenation process to the fetus.
Dramatic changes occur mostly during second and third trimester. Significant weight gain changes the body posture and center of gravity. This would make any balancing or agility exercises become harder as the weight is redistributed.
Surface for exercise should be smooth, a proper equipment and aquatic/water exercise should be incorporated.
In order to hydrate well and preventing low blood sugar, they should take frequent small amount of meals. Pregnant women in second and third trimester who are sedentary usually require 3,000 calories per day. If they are active, the amount of calories has to be more than this requirement.
For those who wishes to engage in exercise during their pregnancy, the following are the recommended guidelines:
- avoid exercising in supine position (on one’s back) after the first trimester.
- avoid activities that are motionless standing.
- avoid hot and humid environment during exercise.
- monitor growth and development according to dietary needs and calories burn.
- stop exercising if there is problem such as dizziness, headache, shortness of breath, vaginal bleeding, rupture of membrane, decreased fetal movement, persistent pain or chronic fatigue presence.
- if regular contractions occur 30 minutes after exercise, you should consult doctor as it may indicate preterm labor.
- heavy weightlifting or similar activities that requires straining should be avoided.
- avoid contact and high risk of falling activities such as soccer, basketball, skiing and horseback riding.
Types of exercise can be divided into weight bearing and non-weight bearing exercise. Both are generally safe to be conducted. Swimming and cycling is an example of non-weight bearing exercises that are proven to increase maternal fitness. Weight bearing exercise such as walking, jogging and low-impact aerobics should also be considered.
For pregnant women who used to exercise before that, they should continue on but not exceeding the pre-pregnancy level of intensity. The intensity should be around moderate to hard if they are used to that intensity. For those who wanted to and newly engage in exercise during pregnancy, they should consult their doctor first.
Last but not least, exercise do helps you getting through the post-partum period. It helps in your psychological state and maintain a healthy weight.