In fact, staying active during pregnancy helps you sleep better, reduces anxiety, and helps prevent common complaints like cramps, swollen feet, tiredness and varicose veins. According to research by Tommy’s, women who exercise are up to a third less likely to have a caesarian, while those who do weight-bearing exercise (where your feet and legs support your weight, such as walking, some yoga, and dancing) can have a shorter labour time with fewer complications.
While some precautions should be followed, it’s recommended across the board – by the NHS and pregnancy and baby charities – to keep active while pregnant.
“If your pregnancy is uncomplicated it is actually much healthier for you and your baby to stay active during your pregnancy,” says midwife Kate Marsh of. “Exercising will boost your health, your unborn baby’s health, and it can help get your body ready for giving birth and being a new mum.”
Make sure to chat to your instructor or midwife to determine which activities are right for you. Gentle cardio is a good start, particularly if you weren’t very active before pregnancy.
“Walking briskly, going up and down stairs and putting a bit more energy into doing the housework or gardening all count,” adds Kate. “The main rule is to be as active as possible – how you do it is up to you. As well as being more active in the things you do every day, you could try swimming, dancing, jogging and suitable exercise classes.”
Tommy’s have also put together a helpfulwhich breaks down advice by trimester. For example, contact sports should be avoided throughout pregnancy, while you shouldn’t lie on your back for longer than a few minutes in the second and third trimesters.
Some muscle strengthening exercises areto help carry the extra weight of your bump, improving circulation, easing backache and strengthening joints. These include…
- Start in a box position (on all fours) with knees under hips, hands under shoulders, with fingers facing forward and abdominals lifted to keep your back straight.
- Pull in your stomach muscles and raise your back up towards the ceiling, curling your trunk and allowing your head to relax gently forward. Do not let your elbows lock.
- Hold for a few seconds then slowly return to the box position.
- Take care not to hollow your back: it should always return to a straight/neutral position.
- Do this slowly and rhythmically 10 times, making your muscles work hard and moving your back carefully.
- Only move your back as far as you can comfortably. This can help to ease back pain.
Pelvic tilt exercises:
- Stand with your shoulders and bottom against a wall.
- Keep your knees soft.
- Pull your belly button towards your spine, so that your back flattens against the wall: hold for 4 seconds then release
- Repeat up to 10 times.
Pelvic floor exercises:
- Close up your bottom, as if you’re trying to stop yourself going to the toilet.
- At the same time, draw in your vagina as if you’re gripping a tampon, and your urethra as if to stop the flow of urine.
- At first, do this exercise quickly, tightening and releasing the muscles immediately
- Then do it slowly, holding the contractions for as long as you can before you relax: try to count to 10.
- Try to do 3 sets of 8 squeezes every day: to help you remember, you could do a set at each meal. This helps to strengthen your pelvic floor which comes under great strain during pregnancy and childbirth.
It’s important that you keep cool while exercising, so to avoid overheating:
- Skip the sauna and steam room at the gym.
- Avoid exercising in very hot temperatures.
- or other fluids.
- Give yourself a few days to get used to the temperature if you’re in a hot climate and you’re not used to it.
Remember, exercising is key for you and your baby’s health, but listen to your body and don’t exhaust yourself. If in doubt, consult your maternity team.