Maintaining Physical Strength Throughout Your Pregnancy
Historically, regular mums and sports women who wanted to exercise throughout their pregnancy were discouraged, as it was deemed unsafe by health professionals. Contradictory research have proven that exercise can be extremely beneficial, both physiologically and psychologically, for a pregnant woman adapting to the changes that pregnancy brings.
Physically, exercising during your pregnancy can help alleviate many negative symptoms such as chronic fatigue, leg swelling, blood pressure and weight gain, and help prepare you for labour. Psychologically, the benefits include improved self-esteem, a decrease in depression, mood stabilisation and the opportunity to meet other mums-to-be at classes.
Ideal exercises mums-to-be should undertake are the kind that will ensure suppleness and get their heart pumping without causing any physical stress. You should speak to either your doctor or midwife before starting any exercise to make sure it’s safe for you and your baby. You should also put together a long-term plan, as exercises that can be carried out in the early stages of your pregnancy may not be appropriate in the later stages.
Aside from the obvious exercises including walking, taking the stairs instead of the lift and lifting the washing basket whilst you still can, the following strength training exercises will work your upper and lower body during your pregnancy. We’ve put together this list for regular mums and keen sports women.
1) Pilates: Pilates target particular muscles that may weaken during your pregnancy such as your stomach and pelvic floor muscles. The positions and movements in Pilates will strengthen your core, teach you how to hold your body and breathe correctly.
2) Yoga: pregnancy yoga helps maintain flexibility, improves your posture and muscle tone, and works your core muscles. Rather than push yourself, focus on extending your body and stretching; which will relax your mind and body. Pregnancy yoga is also thought to help with relaxing and breathing through labour.
3) Swimming: swimming is a safe form of exercise for pregnant women. Your legs, arms, heart and lungs will be worked and by exercising in water, your bump is supported. Try aquanatal classes if you don’t feel comfortable exercising alone in water.
1) Simple strength exercises: if you're a sports woman, the chances are you will be able to undertake more activity than a regular mum. Whilst this still requires professional advice, exercises such as push-ups, planks and squats will work you core muscles and still be achievable in the earlier stages of your pregnancy. These exercises could also be carried out post-pregnancy to help get you back into your desired sport.
2) Weight Training: dumbbell bench presses, dumbbell shrugs and bent over shoulder laterals are recommended as the best exercises that don’t cause strain to the body. Each exercise will strengthen supporting muscles and lessen back pain and joint weaknesses that are associated with pregnancy.
3) Seated Exercises: seated bicep curls, leg extensions, seated chest presses and sitting hamstring curls are good alternative exercises to replace lifting heavy weights. These will work both your upper and lower body muscles without causing stress on your body and help maintain your current strength.
Medical professionals advise that a pregnant woman's heartbeat should not exceed 140 beats per minute during any exercise – athlete or regular mum – due to the high risk of injury. Always remember to speak to your midwife or doctor before undertaking any form of exercise. Each pregnancy should be considered unique and exercise should be tailored to suit each woman.