An Outline of the Benefits of Exercising in Pregnancy
Exercising in Pregnancy. There are many benefits to exercising in pregnancy. By exercising it will help your body deal with the changes associated with pregnancy, and be better prepared for the labour itself. It will also be easier to recreate your pre-pregnancy body after your baby is born. Some of the practical benefits of exercising in pregnancy include:
Exercising in pregnancy increases the amount of energy-producing mitochondria in our cells, which is why people who are very active have more energy, not less. In your first and third trimesters you are likely to feel more tired than usual, so exercising is more important at these times to give you an extra energy boost. Exercise can also help improve your sleeping patterns which can become disrupted when pregnant.
Exercising in pregnancy releases endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals work together to make you feel good when you exercise. This is why after exercising you can feel good for the rest of the day. Feeling positive during pregnancy is important as it will help you deal with all the changes your body is going to experience over the nine months.
Maintains your Fitness
If you have been exercising for a while, you should aim to maintain your fitness during your pregnancy, not look to improve it. The intensity of your training might have to be reduced as your pregnancy progresses (20 weeks onwards). However, by maintaining your fitness level it should aid pregnancy, and let your pre-pregnancy body bounce back faster.
Helps Avoid too much Weight Gain
Typical weight gain in pregnancy is said to be 24 to 33 pounds. On average regular exercisers put on 7 pounds less weight than non-exercisers during pregnancy. Gaining less weight should make it easier to bounce back to your pre-pregnancy weight after your baby is born.
Less Lower Back Pain
As your pregnancy progresses your posture changes which can lead to lower back pain. As your abdominal muscles stretch and weaken to accommodate your growing baby, more stress is placed on your lower back. By focusing on strengthening the abdominal muscles, and stretching your tight lower back, you can help prevent or alleviate lower back pain.
Less Stress Incontinence
Stress incontinence is the loss of small amounts of urine associated with coughing, laughing, sneezing, exercising or other movements that increase pressure on the bladder. Around half of all pregnant women suffer from stress incontinence. This is due to the weight of the baby on their pelvis which places extra pressure on the pelvic floor muscles. It is also due to the hormone relaxin, which loosens muscles in preparation for labour. By strengthening your pelvic floor muscles you can help prevent or alleviate stress incontinence.
Giving birth has been compared to taking part in a marathon. This comparison comes from the length of time most women spend in labour, on average 12-14 hours. The fitter your body is, the easier your labour should be. By maintaining your cardiovascular fitness (through running, cycling, aerobics, swimming, etc.) you are more likely to have the endurance and energy needed to deal with labour. Muscles you use during labour include the pelvic floor muscles which need to relax to let your baby out, and the transverse abdominis (TVA) which helps push your baby out. Both these muscles need to be strong. By strengthening these muscles during pregnancy you should reap the rewards with an easier labour.
Exercise is good for your baby, as well as for you. The increased blood flow from exercise can aid the baby’s growth and development. Endorphins and other feel good hormones released with exercise also pass onto your baby, lifting it’s mood. Also, the continuous rocking motion when exercising can soothe your baby, promoting feelings of security and comfort.
Helps Regain Physique
By exercising throughout your pregnancy your body is likely to bounce back to its pre-pregnancy shape quicker than people who remain inactive during the nine months. This is because you are likely to have put on less weight, and your muscles should have remained strong. Strong well-toned muscles are likely to bounce back faster than muscles which have been asleep for nine months.
Stop exercising and call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms: pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, faintness, vaginal bleeding, rapid heartbeat while resting, difficulty walking, contractions or the baby isn’t moving.
Don’t exercise if you have: pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, ruptured membranes, preterm labour, incompetent cervix, cerclage, vaginal bleeding after 12 weeks or if your baby is growing too slowly.
Lorna is a female personal trainer based in Shoreditch, London. You can find out more about how she works. Lorna runs a specific training programme for exercising in pregnancy. You can also book a free consultation with her.