Do something every day - exercise for a healthy pregnancy

21904 Dr Fysh - Nov 24, 2015

Exercise is good for you – not exactly breaking news is it? But the benefits of exercise are even more important when you’re pregnant. It will help keep you fit and could help prevent complications like pre-eclampsia. It can help you sleep better, tackle depression and lay the ground for a faster recovery after the birth. There is also some evidence that keeping fit during pregnancy may help you have a shorter labour and that’s got to be a big incentive, right?

Despite all of the good reasons to exercise when you’re expecting, it’s thought that around 75% of pregnant women don’t do enough exercise. The key thing to remember is that you don’t need to exercise too hard or for too long.

The NHS says:

“As a general rule, you should be able to hold a conversation as you exercise when pregnant. If you become breathless as you talk, then you're probably exercising too strenuously.”

What kind of exercise?

So what should you be doing? Anything that helps to get your heart rate up, keeps you supple and helps burn calories without pushing your body too hard.

Walking, swimming and cycling on a stationary exercise bike are all good forms of exercise. Then there are also special pregnancy yoga and Pilates classes which are particularly good at stretching and toning your muscles. Make sure, though, that it is a class intended for pregnant women with a qualified instructor.

You should also aim to do some specific exercises for pregnancy like pelvic floor exercises.

Ideally, a variety of exercise is best and you should aim for a total of around 30 minutes a day, most days. But remember that can include walking or even doing the housework so it doesn’t mean you have to be at the gym every day. And if you can’t manage 30 minutes a day, do whatever you can – a smaller amount of exercise is better than no exercise.

If you didn’t exercise much before your pregnancy you should make sure you take it easy and build up slowly. If you didn’t exercise at all before your pregnancy it is worth talking to your doctor or midwife to see what they recommend. If you do start a new exercise regime, start slowly, stretch well during a gradual warm-up and cool down, and be careful not to over exert yourself.

If you already have young children you could find a pregnancy class that also has childcare facilities or try an exercise DVD for pregnant women to do at home.

Exercises to avoid

There are a few things you should steer clear of when you’re expecting. Don’t lie flat on your back, especially later on in your pregnancy, as the weight of the baby may restrict your blood supply and make you feel faint.

Avoid contact sports where there is any risk of you being hit or knocked.

Don’t go scuba diving as the baby has no protection against decompression sickness.

And don’t exercise at altitudes higher than 2,500 metres above sea level until you have acclimatised to avoid the risk of altitude sickness.

Overall the advice is do little, often. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just keep yourself moving and gently prepare your body for the changes ahead.


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About Dr Fysh

Dr Fysh

Dr Fysh is one of the country’s leading consultant paediatricians, currently a consultant at The Portland Hospital for Women and Children, and a Fellow of the Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health and the Royal College of Physicians. Having experienced first-hand the suffering caused by serious medical conditions to babies and young children and the emotional and financial strain that this can place on parents on a daily basis. He joined the board of directors as Chief Medical Officer and has been instrumental in the building of the NurtureFirst product. 

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