My background

Pregnancy exercises, now that’s a topic worth talking about! My name’s Sammie and I’ve been the exercise physiologist at Get Better Physiotherapy Browns plains for the past few years. I’m coming to the end of my time at the clinic as I’m getting ready to have a baby! It is my first and it has been a big learning curve! I have been trying to get used to not being so mobile or energetic, and I have opened more doors on my growing tummy than I care to admit! As a lot of you parents out there would already know, there is a lot of information out there on conception, pregnancy exercises and parenting in general…but not all of it is good!

I have been fit and healthy my entire life (minus the odd sporting injury), and yet I find a lot of people- sometimes even patients- get quite anxious at the thought of me demonstrating or doing exercise. I work with a lot of expectant mummies and have good knowledge of the implications of pregnancy exercises through my studies, so have been confident in navigating my way through safe exercises with my own pregnancy!. Of course, every pregnancy is different- clearance from your caregivers is always necessary as soon as you think you may be pregnant. However I highly recommend trying to stay active when carrying your little one.

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Why pregnancy exercises?

According to healthdirect, pregnancy birth and baby “doing regular physical activity has health benefits during pregnancy and also helps to prepare the body for childbirth”. So, with all the advice that comes with pregnancy how do you weed out the good information from the bad, and where do you start with exercise and pregnancy? In this article I’ll help you sort fact from fiction, and what current guidelines suggest. Let’s start with the benefits of exercising during pregnancy. These are varied and include:

  • Reduced fatigue

  • Improved circulation
  • Better sleep quality

  • Prevent and manage pregnancy related back pain

  • Reduced constipation

  • Reduced stress

  • Better posture

  • Helps prevent gestational diabetes

  • Better preparation for labour

  • Improved post-partum recovery

These benefits usually outweigh the small risk to a healthy pregnant mummy. There are even some suggestions that there may be effects on how athletic your baby will be as they are older children and teenagers! In all of this, it is really important to listen to your body and know your limits. If there are ever any questions or concerns, drop into your medical team to make sure there is nothing to be worried about.

Now…Here are some common misconceptions about exercise during pregnancy!

1. You can’t exercise when pregnant

Fiction. In most cases (again, always check with your GP/midwife/obstetrician) exercise is safe and even advised. It just needs slight modifications. There are several variables such as pre-pregnancy and current fitness level, experience with exercise, stage of pregnancy, complications with pregnancy, position of exercises and intensity. This can all get a bit tricky so your best bet is to stick to gentle activities such as walking and swimming, at least until you can get assistance with a program from an exercise physiologist. A general rule of thumb is that if you were doing certain exercises pre-pregnancy, you are able to continue this during the pregnancy (perhaps with slight modifications).

2. Exercise can hurt your baby or cause miscarriage

Fiction. Again, in most cases this is untrue. The main fear of exercise during pregnancy is overheating or “stealing” nutrients from the baby. Expectant women should try to avoid exercising in excessive heat and saunas mainly to avoid dehydration. Temperature regulation when pregnant tends to differ a little bit from normal anyway. After all, there is a whole other human growing and living inside you! Keeping intensity to moderate is another good way to ensure your exercise is safe and make sure you keep your fluids up.  Once you hit second trimester, you should avoid exercises that require you lying flat on your back for extended periods. After this time the weight of the baby can impede blood flow back to your heart. Recommendations can be given to ensure you take all of these factors into account.

3. More prone to injury and falls when pregnant

Fact! This one is actually true! The reason behind the increased risk of injury is hormones- the reason for everything during pregnancy! Relaxin is a hormone produced to allow the baby to eventually pass through your pelvis however the downside it, it relaxes all of your joints more so leaves you at more risk of sprains. Your changing shape and expanding tummy changes your centre of gravity which throws off balance and can increase risk of falling. Just make sure you stay away from contact sports or anything that is unbalanced to start with.

4. Exercise can cause pre-term labour

Fiction. This is usually not the case. True, it is something recommended in the late stages of pregnancy to induce labour however when examined in studies there is no clear effect on bringing on labour faster. Some gentle exercise may assist in moving the baby into a better position for birth, and as suggested above, if you have been active the whole way through pregnancy and there are still no reasons to stop…why stop?!?! Generally speaking, exercise does not speed up the process or cause pre-term labour under normal circumstances.

The take away points are:

  1. Clearance from your medical team is a must!
  2. Remain as active as comfortable
  3. Listen to your body
  4. Drink water
  5. No contact sports

Thank you for reading, I hope you feel more confident in the safety of exercising whilst pregnant. All the best in your journey with exercising with your little one. Stay healthy!