Gentle activities such as walking,, slow dance movements and Yoga stretches are recommended forms of exercise during pregnancy. Attending exercise classes may help a woman to adhere to her routine.
Walking is an excellent form of gentle exercise for pregnancy, as is swimming, which helps to tone every part of the body while protecting the joints. Swimming is especially enjoyable for the third trimester of pregnancy because the water helps to support the increasing body mass and give a sensation of weightlessness. Dancing is a good means of toning the muscles and exercising aerobically. However, dancing that involves vigorous movement, such as being thrown or lifted, should be avoided.
Regular stretching exercises before and during pregnancy, promote suppleness and help a woman to find comfortable resting positions in late pregnancy and during labour. Some women choose to give birth in a squatting or kneeling position and this requires strength and suppleness. Stretching also improves circulation, calms breathing, lowers blood pressure and regulates the heart rate. It helps ease stiffness and tension, relaxes the body and increases the elasticity of the muscles.
Ankle circling, in particular, eases localized swelling. Yoga is an excellent discipline both for pregnancy and in preparation for birth, although the teacher’s advice on individual Asanas (postures) should always be sought at each stage.
Many expectant parents choose to attend antenatal classes, where mothers-to-be may be taught relaxation through breathing control. This provides a valuable resource for pain relief during labour.
A little gentle exercise each day is preferable to a couple of long sessions once a week. High-intensity exercise that raises body temperature or blood pressure to a high level should be avoided; so should swimming in very cold water or activities that involve overworking the joints and the spine. Sports or activities that involve sudden awkward movements or a risk of falling, such as riding, skiing or rock-climbing, are best avoided due to the threat to the foetus.
Any bleeding, spotting, deep pelvic or abdominal pain or cramps during exercise should be a signal to stop immediately and seek medical help. Women who have high blood pressure, have had a previous miscarriage or other pregnancy problems should seek advice before exercising.