“Exercise in pregnancy is not the time to start a more intense exercise regime but rather continue or modify an established routine” (Sports Medicine Australia, 2002)
“In the absence of contraindications, women should be encouraged to exercise during pregnancy” (American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 2002 & Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 2006)
The benefits of exercise during pregnancy is now widely known, including:
- Decrease the risk of gestational diabetes
- Maintenance of cardiovascular fitness
- Prevents and reduces occurrence of back and pelvic pain
- Improves body awareness, balance, coordination and posture
- Maintenance of a healthy weight and subsequent improvement in self confidence and body image
- Preparation for labour and assistance in post natal recovery
The following guidelines can be utilised when considering exercise in pregnancy. Women with a low risk pregnancy should be aiming to exercise for 30 minutes or more at moderate intensity on most days of the week. Moderate intensity can be considered to a level that allows you to talk comfortably, if you can’t talk easily then you may be overdoing it. Women with a sedentary lifestyle who are not used to exercising should commence after 13 weeks, with a low impact exercise routine, aiming to increase the frequency and duration of exercise as able.
In relation to specific sports, the following information may guide you upon your training. The majority of non contact sports can be performed throughout pregnancy, e.g. swimming, walking and Pilates. However aspects of the sport may need to be decreased during later stages of the pregnancy to minimise stress on the body, e.g. tumble turns during swimming. Limited contact sports are safe during the first trimester, with the possibility into the second trimester, e.g. racquet sports. Unlimited contact sports are deemed only really safe to continue in the first trimester, e.g. football. Exercises involving straining or that demands high level balance or sudden directional changes are not generally recommended, e.g. weight lifting, horse riding, and downhill skiing. Do remember that the appropriate level of exercise will depend on how fit you were before becoming pregnant. Also useful to remember to wear loose, comfortable clothes, drink plenty of fluids, and don’t allow yourself to get overheated, as this can be harmful to the baby.
There are certain signs that will develop if you are overdoing exercise including persistent vaginal bleeding, shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, chest pain or palpitations. If you also experience any pelvic girdle pain, abdominal pain, excessive fatigue or decrease foetal movement then these are all signs to slow down.
There are also specific contraindications to exercising in pregnancy, related to pre-existing medical conditions, multiple gestation and pregnancy complications so if you are concerned at all then please liaise with your GP, obstetrician, midwife or physiotherapist to guide you further.
Sports Medicine Australia, 2002
Joint Society of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists Canada/Canadian Society of Exercise Physiologists, 2003
American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 2002
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 2006