Exercises in pregnancy

The more active you keep during pregnancy, the easier it will be to adjust to your changing shape and weight gain. Exercise isn’t dangerous for your baby and it’s also good for you, the expectant mother: it reduces the risk of developing problems in the later stages of pregnancy, it will help you cope with labor and get back in shape after giving birth.

Exercising during pregnancy can not only be good for the mood, but also beneficial. However, we must not forget that as a result of the enormous changes that take place in your body, it is always preferable to consult your doctor beforehand to determine together which exercises to do and which not, and above all how much effort you have to make. In particular, it may be necessary to modify the existing exercise program or choose a new one suitable for pregnant women (if you exercised little before pregnancy).

Exercise and changes associated with pregnancy

Your body goes through many changes during pregnancy. Some affect your ability to exercise or require you to modify your workouts:

  • hormones such as relaxin loosen ligaments, which could increase the risk of joint injuries (such as sprains);
  • as your belly gets bigger, your weight increases, your center of gravity moves forward and your body takes on a new shape. All of this can alter your balance and coordination;
  • pregnancy increases blood volume, cardiac work, oxygen demand and consequently the resting heart rate. Because of these changes, it is not recommended to use heart rate as a benchmark for training intensity. The American College of Sport Medicine recommends using the Borg 6-20 scale as an evaluation parameter, also known as the RPE scale (rating of perceived effort). This measures how hard you perceive your body is working.
  • blood pressure drops in the second trimester, so it’s important to avoid rapid changes of position – from lying to standing and vice versa – to avoid dizziness.

Benefits of physical exercises during pregnancy

Exercising during pregnancy is good for you both physically and emotionally.

Physical activity can also help manage some pregnancy symptoms, and still make you feel better just knowing you’re doing something good for yourself and your baby.

Some of the benefits of regular exercise during pregnancy include:

  • fun;
  • increased joint stability;
  • increased energy;
  • improvement of physical fitness;
  • reduction of back and pelvic pain;
  • reduced risk of pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia and pregnancy-induced hypertension;
  • preparation for the physical demands of childbirth;
  • reduction of the risk of complications in childbirth;
  • faster recovery after labor;
  • prevention and management of urinary incontinence;
  • postural improvement;
  • improved circulation;
  • increased calorie consumption;
  • reduction of stress levels;
  • reduced risk of anxiety and depression;
  • improved sleep and lower risk of insomnia;
  • greater ability to cope with the physical demands of motherhood;

Recommended exercises during pregnancy

Activities that are generally safe during pregnancy, even for beginners, include:

  • walk
  • I swim
  • cycling – outdoors or on a stationary bike
  • jogging
  • strength exercises
  • aquagym
  • yoga , stretching and other floor exercises
  • pilates
  • specific gymnastics for pregnancy which also includes exercises to strengthen the muscles of the abdomen and the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor muscles are weakened during pregnancy and vaginal birth, so it’s extremely important to start strengthening them from the very beginning of your pregnancy. Exercises. appropriate can be prescribed by a physiotherapist.

Precautions for exercise in pregnancy

While most of the exercises are safe, there are some positions and movements that can be uncomfortable or harmful for pregnant women. In this sense, it is advisable to hear what the recommendations and indications of your doctor are.

Some general tips are:

  • always stay well hydrated, avoid exercising on hot days and sweating too much;
  • never push yourself to the maximum of your physical abilities (cardio, strength and endurance)
  • if you train with weights , avoid lifting heavy weights;
  • do a controlled stretch and avoid overextending it.
  • do not exercise if you do not feel well, if you have a fever – for example.
  • learn to listen and follow the signals your body gives you. If one day you don’t feel like doing exercises or you feel like doing less, change your program and adapt to your state.
  • During the entire pregnancy, do not increase the intensity of your exercise program and always work at less than 75% of your maximum heart rate.
  • if you become ill or develop any pregnancy-related complications, talk to your doctor or midwife before continuing or restarting your exercise program.

Exercises to avoid during pregnancy

During pregnancy, avoid sports and activities that are at increased risk or characterized by:

  • contact or collision, such as martial arts, football, basketball, etc
  • sports that use objects, such as bullets or bats such as hockey, cricket or softball
  • sports which – such as alpine skiing, horse riding and skating – involve the risk of falling
  • sports that require balance, coordination and agility, such as artistic gymnastics
  • activities that subject your body to significant pressure changes, such as scuba diving
  • training at high altitudes above 2000 m
  • supine exercise position (lying on the back): the weight of the child can slow the return of blood to the heart;
  • wide squats or lunges on the legs;

If you are unsure whether a particular activity is safe during pregnancy, consult your doctor.

When to stop (and see a doctor)

Stop exercising immediately and consult your doctor if you experience one or more of the following symptoms while exercising

  • headache;
  • dizziness or feeling faint;
  • palpitations;
  • chest pain;
  • swelling of the face, hands or feet;
  • vaginal bleeding;
  • contractions;
  • deep back, pubic, or pelvic pain;
  • cramps in the lower abdomen;
  • walking difficulties;
  • an unusual change in your baby’s movements;
  • leakage of amniotic fluid;
  • unusual shortness of breath;
  • excessive tiredness or muscle weakness;

Katherine Johnson, M.D., is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist with clinical expertise in general obstetrics and gynecology, family planning, women’s health, and gynecology.

She is affiliated with the Obstetrics and Gynecology division at an undisclosed healthcare institution and the online platform, Maternicity.com.

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