Are you feeling confused about what type of exercise is appropriate for you during pregnancy and postpartum? You are NOT alone! There is so much conflicting information about exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period, it is easy to become confused and overwhelmed.
Many of the misconceptions about pregnancy and exercise can lead women to be overly cautious during pregnancy, and overly relaxed about returning to exercise postpartum, jumping back into intense exercise too quickly.
What are the benefits of exercise during pregnancy?
There are SO many benefits of exercise for pregnant women! Just have a look at the following list from The American College of Sports Medicine and The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:
- Prevents excessive weight gain during pregnancy
- Reduces risk of gestational diabetes
- Decreases risk of high blood pressure associated with pregnancy (preeclampsia)
- Decreases postpartum recovery time
- Decreases risk of low back pain
- Decreases severity of low back pain
- Decreases risk of urinary incontinence
- Prevents / improves symptoms of depression
- Maintains physical fitness
- Prevents postpartum weight retention
- May reduce the risk of cesarean delivery
What are the current recommendations and advice around exercise during pregnancy?
The advice that many women are given is to “keep doing what you were doing before you got pregnant and avoid doing anything new” which is NOT always accurate or helpful. Someone who was training at a moderate to high intensity before becoming pregnant can continue training at that intensity throughout pregnancy (provided there are no health concerns), while someone who was sedentary before becoming pregnant should only be exercising at a low to moderate intensity throughout their pregnancy.
The American College of Sports Medicine and The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that pregnant women engage in a total of at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week, spread over four to seven days, for 20-30 minutes a day, all or most days of each week.
Activities that are safe and can be continued or started slowly include:
- Low-impact aerobic activities (walking, swimming, stationary cycling and low-impact aerobic classes)
- Modified yoga and pilates
- Strength training
- Running and jogging
Activities that should be avoided include:
- Contact sports (hockey, boxing, soccer, rugby, football and basketball)
- Activities with a high risk of falling (skiing, surfing, off-road cycling, gymnastics, and horseback riding)
- Scuba diving
- Activities done in high temperatures (hot yoga, hot pilates)
How can exercise make pregnancy, labour and delivery more comfortable?
Maintaining good posture and alignment through exercise can help the baby sit in a position that allows for an easier labor and delivery experience. Physical activity during pregnancy can also improve a woman’s ability to carry extra weight in her breasts and uterus more comfortably.
During pregnancy, a woman’s body increases production of the hormones estrogen and relaxin, which work to relax and soften the ligaments in the pelvis and to widen and soften the cervix. While this is a very helpful and necessary in preparing the body for childbirth, it can lead to compensatory movements and overuse of certain muscles. Exercise can help improve movement patterns and reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injury during pregnancy. Some women also find that exercise helps reduce or alleviate nausea, fatigue, morning sickness, and headaches!
If you or someone you know is pregnant and would like some more guidance around exercise during pregnancy book in an appointment today!