Pregnancy is a beautiful time for a woman. It is a moment she has waited for, a moment that will transform her into “mom”. Still this beautiful period of her life is not without its own set of problems. Not only is her body changing in ways she couldn’t imagine possible but also there is a myriad of well-meaning advice given to her from all sorts of people. This confuses her further as she devours all the information that is available to her via books, internet and friends. What to eat what to avoid, whether to continue to work and travel, whether to begin any form of exercise, and what is safe to do and what isn’t. These are some of the questions that plague her.
In my experience I find most pregnant women fearful of exercising at all because of the conflicting information they get. And this is what I advise my pregnant patients. Hear everyone out but only listen to your medical professional. The information that your friend has given you may not be relevant to you; when your well- meaning grand mom warns you against working take it with a pinch of salt. Talk to your gynecologist, your physiotherapist who specializes in pregnancy care, your nutritionist, your trainer or yoga therapist specialized in pregnancy care or any competent medical person you trust.
Medical science is racing ahead; new research data arrives every day; safe exercise guidelines and do’s and don’ts for exercise during pregnancy have been established for some time now and we see examples of this frequently. A pregnant woman finishes a marathon with flying colors; pregnant athletes competing in events; women working in physically active jobs until the delivery date. This does not mean we all need to do this- it just tells us our bodies are capable of what we train for whether pregnant or not!
Pregnant women must exercise regularly to decrease some common discomforts like backaches and fatigue, prevent gestational diabetes (diabetes that develops during pregnancy), relieve stress,and build more stamina needed for labour and delivery. An added benefit that women love is that they gain their pre-pregnancy shape much quicker! Guidelines tell us “In the absence of contraindications,pregnant women are encouraged to engage in 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise a day on most, if not all, days of the week. Check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.”
In my opinion exercise during pregnancy should be tailored to suit your body type, your exercise history and your pregnancy. Several pre-natal classes are available now that can assist you with this. Having said that, for a women who has not been very physically active prior to the pregnancy daily walking, swimming and light supervised weight training may be good options. For women who have been exercising regularly,continue the same with about 20% less intensity provided you are comfortable and your doctor approves. A few precautions: Avoid overheating- stay cool;Wear proper footwear during walking and exercising; Do not exercise vigorously-no more than 30 minutes, Exercises suitable: walking, swimming, water aerobics,yoga, Pilates, weight training; Heart rate should not exceed 140 beats per min;Avoid vigorous hip stretching (butterfly bouncing yoga pose), bouncing movement(fast, jerky dancing, etc.) and abdominal straining.A few stretches and exercises are a must to protect from backache and for a smooth labor and delivery.