The do’s & do not’s of exercise in pregnancy

By Fit Right

Gone are the days of the 1950’s when pregnant women were discouraged from anything other than light household duties - medical experts in this field now agree that there are many physical and psychological benefits of regular exercise during pregnancy. Some of these include reducing swelling, fatigue and insomnia, and assisting in the management of gestational diabetes.

But there is so much information out there to sift through – how do you know that the exercise you choose to do is the best option for you and your unborn baby? It is an unfortunate fact that certain exercises will predispose you to urinary incontinence, vaginal prolapse, pelvic joint pain, abdominal muscle separation and more. Here are some guidelines to help you to exercise safely:

At the very least, try and aim for:

Cardio exercise - 30 minutes on most days if you are feeling well

  • Low impact options are best for your joints and pelvic floor in pregnancy, such as aqua aerobics, walking or an exercise bike
  • Always make sure you can still hold a conversation at the same time to avoid over-exertion

Pelvic floor exercises - 3 sets of per day

  • But did you know that approximately half of women are doing these exercises incorrectly?
  • It is highly recommended to seek guidance from a Women’s Health & Continence Physiotherapist to ensure that you are doing this correctly and have the optimal program in place for you

If you are motivated and have the time, the following would be fantastic to add into your program:

Strength and toning exercises - 30-60 minutes a few times per week.

  • Focus on maintaining optimal posture as your body changes
  • No exercises lying on your back after 16 weeks to prevent decreased blood flow to the baby
  • Avoid sit ups, planks or other upper abdominal exercises after the ‘6 pack muscle’ (Rectus Abdominus) has started to separate. This is also about 16-18 weeks.
  • Single leg weight-bearing exercises can aggravate Pelvic Girdle Pain, so do these with care and stop if they are causing pain

 Regular stretching

  • Careful to only go through a comfortable range – the pregnancy hormone relaxin allows extra flexibility and joints can be damaged with overstretching.

There are two main pieces of advice that I would give to every pregnant woman. Firstly, it is so important to have a pregnancy assessment by a Continence & Women’s Health Physiotherapist. Even if you have no current issues, they can assess that you are activating your core muscles correctly and together you can plan an individualized exercise program for your pregnancy and beyond.

Secondly, find a good quality pregnancy pilates, yoga or hydrotherapy instructor (or all three!). Attending classes like this regularly from early in your pregnancy can have widespread benefits for your core, flexibility, strength and posture, as well as giving you education about preparation for labour and new motherhood. Not to mention the social benefits of meeting other women to compare notes with! A good quality pregnancy exercise DVD would be ideal to maintain these gains at home in between classes.

So remember – it is important to keep fit during your pregnancy, but it is even more important to do it the right way! Seek guidance from specialist health professionals where you can, and empower yourself with the knowledge you need to meet the physical challenges of pregnancy and new motherhood.

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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