It is fair to say there is a lot of conflicting advice given to expectant mothers in regards to exercise during pregnancy. I’m sure most adults remember the traditional guidelines recommending expectant mothers get as much rest as possible during their pregnancy, even prolonged bed rest if complications arise and to ‘eat for two’ . Unfortunately these guidelines have been a major contributing factor in the worldwide obesity epidemic.
If you are healthy and your pregnancy is normal, it is safe to continue or start most types of exercise, but you may need to make a few changes. Contrary to past beliefs, physical activity does not increase your risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, or early delivery. It is however, important to discuss your exercise plans with your obstetrician or health care provider in your early prenatal visits to ensure you do not have any pregnancy complications which may impact on your ability to exercise.
The most current guidelines have been developed by academics and health professionals focusing on safe physical activity and exercise for healthy women who are free of medical and obstetric complications.
The guidelines state:
- Walking, jogging, cycling and swimming (at moderate intensity), muscle strengthening exercises (including pelvic floor exercises), water based exercise and pregnancy specific exercise classes are safe for pregnant women.
- Women with uncomplicated pregnancies should be encouraged to engage in aerobic and strength conditioning exercises before, during and after pregnancy. Evidence has shown this to have benefits for the mother’s physical and mental health and well being.
- Pregnant women who were inactive prior to pregnancy should be encouraged to be active during pregnancy. They should commence with low intensity activities like swimming or walking and progress to the lower end of the range recommended in the Australian guidelines (i.e. 150mins per week or 30mins per day of moderate intensity activity on most days)
- For healthy pregnant women who are experiencing an uncomplicated pregnancy and who participated in physical activity and exercise prior to pregnancy, exercise can be continued throughout pregnancy until such time that it becomes uncomfortable to do so.
- Please be aware of the contraindications, signs and symptoms that may indicate physical activity and exercise may not be recommended for you during your pregnancy.
- Regular physical activity during pregnancy improves or maintains physical fitness, helps with weight management, reduces risk of gestational diabetes in obese women and enhances psychological well being.
In addition to the above benefits, exercise in pregnancy also has also been linked to shorter, easier and less complicated labors, decreased length of hospital stay and a reduced caesarean section rate by 25%. Studies have also shown exercise in pregnancy has many benefits for the developing fetus including improved placental quality and higher apgar scores (a method to quickly summarize the health of a newborn).
It is important to be aware of the signs to stop exercising. These include:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Shortness of breath prior to exercising
- Dizziness or headache
- Chest pain
- Muscle weakness
- Calf pain or swelling (rule out DVT)
- Pre-term labor
- Decreased foetal movements
- Amniotic fluid leakage
A thorough clinical evaluation should be conducted before recommending an exercise program to ensure that a patient does not have a medical reason to avoid exercise. Please obtain clearance from your doctor prior to commencing a new exercise program.
Chevron Island Physio is lucky enough to have two Physiotherapists who specialise in Women’s Health if you have any concerns or queries.
Phone: 5504 7000