Exercise During Pregnancy and Safety Recommendations

Walking is a gentle form of exercise that can be enjoyed throughout pregnancy. A woman who has been active before becoming pregnant may be able – on the advice of her doctor – to pursue slightly more strenuous activities.

exercise during pregnancyA woman who has been sedentary prior to pregnancy, however, should avoid taking up a new activity until after the birth.

Gentle Yoga, stretching exercises or pilates exercises are recommended during pregnancy. They promote suppleness and mobility of the joints, release tension, and improve circulation and breathing. These are all important aspects of a comfortable pregnancy and labour.

GENTLE EXERCISES FOR PREGNANCY

The following exercises help to tone important muscles, promote flexibility and reduce tiredness during pregnancy. For maximum benefit, they should be practised for a few minutes each day.

Pelvic tuck

This exercise promotes suppleness and relaxation and can be practised throughout pregnancy.

1. Kneel down on all fours, with the knees about hip-width apart. Tuck in the pelvis and clench the buttocks tightly; the back will arch upwards.

2. Hold this position for a few seconds, breathing evenly. Slowly relax but do not let the back sink downwards. Repeat the exercise several times every day.

Pelvic rocking

This exercise strengthens the stomach muscles and the muscles that support the spine. In late pregnancy, you may find lying on your back uncomfortable and you may feel dizzy. In this case, you should turn on to your side or avoid the exercise.

1. Lie on the floor with the knees bent, the feet flat and the arms alongside the torso.

2. Keeping the shoulders and upper back on the ground, slightly raise the hips and buttocks.

3. Gently rock the pelvis backwards and forwards about ten times. Then gently lower the buttocks and hips to the ground.

Ankle circling

ankle circling - exercises during pregnancyThis exercise improves circulation in the legs, and eases tired legs and swollen ankles. Keeping a straight back, sit on a chair and extend the legs in front to rest the feet on another chair.

Slowly rotate the feet ten times one way, then ten times the other way. Keep the toes relaxed – do not point the toes because this can cause cramp. This exercise can also be performed while sitting on the floor.

PELVIC FLOOR EXERCISES

The pelvic floor muscles support the uterus, bowel and bladder and keep the entrances to the vagina, urethra and anus closed. The increase in progesterone during pregnancy causes the muscles to soften and relax so it is important to keep them toned. Pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegel exercises, should be practised both during and after pregnancy to help prevent pregnancy-related stress incontinence (the leakage of urine caused by intra­-abdominal pressure resulting from coughing, sneezing, laughing or other types of exertion) and future prolapse of the uterus (when the uterus descends into the vagina). The exercises can be practised at any time without anyone knowing you are doing them. Take time to perform them slowly for maximum benefit.

To perform pelvic floor exercises (also known as kegel exercises), begin by tensing the muscles around the urethra, vagina and anus as if attempting to prevent the passing of urine. Breathe out as you tense the muscles and try not to tense the muscles in the buttocks or abdomen. Breathing evenly, hold this for as long as you can, but without straining. Relax, then repeat the exercise around ten times in succession. Aim to do this at least five times a day.

SAFETY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR EXERCISE DURING PREGNANCY

During pregnancy, it is particularly important to consider the various safety aspects involved in exercising.

DO:

• Consult a doctor before embarking on exercise for the first time during pregnancy.

• Exercise regularly.

• Exercise at a moderate intensity; if you feel tired, stop.

• Complete an exercise routine with some cooling-down exercises, then relax for 10 minutes to rest the heart.

• Wear a supportive bra and good quality training shoes.

• Drink water during and after exercise to replace lost fluids.

DO NOT:

• Lift heavy objects.

• Exercise to the point of exhaustion.

• Get too hot.

• Exercise for more than an hour at a time.

• Take very hot showers, baths or saunas after exercise.

• Get dehydrated.

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