The following tips are designed for women having healthy, single birth pregnancies. All women must gain approval from their GP/medical practitioner before commencing exercise during pregnancy.
- If you are thinking of having a baby, aim to exercise regularly before you conceive. Being fit prior to getting pregnant will not only help you to maintain exercise during your pregnancy but will also help to improve your chances of conceiving.
- Exercise may be the last thing on your mind in early pregnancy however gentle walks and moderate activity such as swimming can really help to reduce some of the symptoms you may be feeling, such as nausea and tiredness.
- Try to do moderate activities every day. Current guidelines advise 30 minutes at least 5 days a week, however there is evidence to show that 30 – 60 minutes of activity can have a better effect.
- Never exercise to extremes – you should be doing moderate exercise which is where you feel slightly challenged but still able to comfortably talk. Brisk walking, swimming, and light aerobic exercise are good examples.
- If you’re a keen sports woman, you don’t have to stop what you do. In the first trimester it is possible to continue many sports, after this however your baby leaves the protection of the womb so any sports that could cause abdominal trauma must be avoided. You should also avoid all altitude sports and scuba diving. The key is to tail down what you do, seek expert advice and consider that your main goal now is having a baby, so you need to adjust your training goals accordingly.
- As your baby grows your body will start to be challenged from a more postural perspective. Training postural, or sometimes known as ‘core’ muscles during pregnancy therefore can really help to relieve symptoms such as back and hip pain and help you to stay balanced. Specialist classes like the Baby A-Wake antenatal Pilates class are ideal for helping you stay strong and centred.
- Pelvic floor exercises are essential during pregnancy. Do them every day and you will help to keep your back and spine strong, help to flatten your tummy post birth and also help to alleviate any problems with bladder and bowel control that are common after childbirth.
- Try this exercise to work your pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles. Sit tall and first try to connect to your pelvic floor by pulling up through your vagina as if drawing a tampon up there! As you do this, feel your tummy muscles draw in a little at the same time. Now imagine your belly button is a horizontal lift going back to your spine. Aim to pull your tummy up 5 floors until you can’t draw it back any more. Breathe naturally as you do this, relax and repeat x 10, every day of your pregnancy to get great results.
- Current guidelines advise you to avoid lying on your back in the second and third trimesters. Try to do exercises in an ‘on all fours’ position, on your hands and knees. (you can try the exercise in 8 above like this but make sure you don’t let your back sag as you do it) Being on all fours is a comfortable position and also believed to help turn your baby into an optimal birthing position – so worth doing especially in the last few weeks of pregnancy.
- Try to stay moving right up to the very end! Research has shown that women who stay active right up to the end of their pregnancy are likely to have easier births and a quicker recovery. You will naturally need to slow down more towards the end so listen to your body and keep moving but be careful!
Fitness professional Jane Wake is the founder of Baby A-Wake, a specialist exercise service for ante-natal and post-natal women.