The pregnant woman's guide to exercise

By Carol Kilkenny, Bupa

Being pregnant shouldn’t mean missing out on physical activity. Bupa give their top exercise tips to help keep mum and baby safe.

Exercising during pregnancy is a whole different ball game to what you might be used to. If you’re looking to stay active during pregnancy be sure to follow these basic guidelines.

1. Get your doctor’s tick of approval

Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a weekend warrior, it’s important to let your doctor, midwife or other health professional know about your pregnancy exercise plans. Let them be the judge about whether exercising during pregnancy is safe for you.

2. Don’t be extreme

Sorry adrenaline junkies – you’re going to have to press pause on your extreme sport career for the next nine months. Waterskiing, snow skiing, horseriding, martial arts and scuba diving are all best avoided while pregnant.

3. Maintain don’t gain

Forget about setting a new fitness PB while you’re pregnant – now is the time to focus on maintaining your fitness, not increasing it. So if you don’t consider yourself a jogger or high-intensity fitness fanatic, don’t try to become one while you’re pregnant.

Jen Dugard, a mum’s fitness expert from Body Beyond Baby, suggests aiming for a seven out of ten exertion level. “One is equivalent to sitting on the couch doing nothing and ten is when you can’t possibly do any more, so aim for somewhere in between,” she says.

4. Build your core muscles

Prenatal Pilates or yoga classes are great exercises to help strengthen your core while pregnant. A strong core will not only help your body support the weight of the baby, it can reduce the strain on your back and strengthen your pelvic floor.

5. Keep cool and hydrated

“Skip those hot yoga and spin classes for a while because your baby has no way of cooling down,” says Dugard. You’ll also need plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, otherwise your temperature will rise. This can be dangerous as prolonged periods of raised temperatures can cause your baby harm.

6. Take it slow

If anything feels uncomfortable, strange or painful, stop doing it. Your resting heart rate increases, your blood pressure drops, and you have looser joints while pregnant, and these all impact on how exercise can affect you. So avoid heavy weights and don’t do vigorous exercise more than three times a week in your third trimester.

Avoid heavy weights and don’t do vigorous exercise more than three times a week in your third trimester.

7. Back off

After your first trimester, avoid exercises done lying on your back. It puts pressure on a large artery, which can lower your blood pressure and reduce blood flow to the baby.

8. Don’t over-stretch

Pregnancy causes the body to release a hormone called relaxin that is designed to relax your ligaments so you can deliver the baby through your pelvis. The downside is that it does put you at risk of over-stretching or sprains, so be gentle and give your fitness instructor or yoga teacher a heads up that you’re pregnant.

As long as you listen to your body and don’t overexert yourself you should be able to stay physically active during pregnancy and reap the health rewards.

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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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