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Exercise when expecting

So many women (and their families) immediately focus on what they should rather stop doing when they have confirmation that they are pregnant. How sad, because being active is one of the best things for a woman to be, not only before and after pregnancy, but throughout her 40 week wait for her baby.

While an excessive – and I mean really excessive - exercise programme may delay conception, overall fitness can even be beneficial for optimal fertility. Once you‘re pregnant, it’s just as important to exercise regularly, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be fun and tailored to you, the individual woman! It’s probably because the word ‘exercise’ sounds so much like hard work that so many women feel disinclined, and even think they have good reason to back off during pregnancy. That’s why I prefer to talk about ‘movement therapy’! It’s all about using your body to keep it strong and supple.

See exercise in a new light

If you have never exercised before, simply start doing ten minutes of whatever activity most catches your fancy, five days a week. If you enjoy whatever it is that you are doing, increase the time a bit each day or indulge yourself again later in the day. You will soon start reaping the fruits of your labours and that will be sufficient motivation to continue. Exercise in pregnancy will help you:

  • Feel and look good, improving your self-esteem
  • Ensure maximum fitness and stamina for labour and birth
  • To improve mood, balance emotions and lessen cravings
  • Have less aches and pains because posture and muscle and ligament tone is improved
  • Experience less digestive symptoms like constipation
  • Have less swelling of your ankles and feet
  • Ensure optimal vestibular development of your baby
  • Feel stronger and less tired in the final weeks of pregnancy
  • Recover more rapidly after birth

The secret is to realise that exercise isn’t all about gym sessions and jogging. Choose something you love to do that keeps you active, whether it’s gardening or cycling, and you’ll already be more than half-way there. Here are five tried and tested exercise options for you to consider as the basis of your pregnancy workout, because they are safe, easy to start doing while pregnant and are of particular benefit in pregnancy:

  1. Going for regular walks will tone your whole body, inside and out.
  2. Water exercise is great in pregnancy – swim or take part in a pregnancy water aerobics class.
  3. Regular dancing is a great way to exercise; do it for at least half an hour at a time.
  4. Exercising on a pregnancy ball is excellent for your back and core muscles.
  5. Yoga is fantastic for body and mind – just make sure the instructor is experienced in pregnancy yoga!

General exercise hints and cautions

If you’ve already found your ideal form of exercise, feel free to stick to it if it’s safe in pregnancy. As pregnancy progresses, bear these pointers in mind:

  • Always get an all-clear from your practitioner for a full gym-style exercise regime and participation in more adventurous, demanding and high-impact sports like rock-climbing, heavy aerobics, horse riding and weight-lifting.
  • Some sports should be put on hold during pregnancy for rather obvious reasons – martial arts, white water rafting, and sky-diving, to name a few.
  • Always warm up at the start of an exercise programme and cool down at the end.
  • See your doctor if you feel unwell, your pulse races or breathing is difficult during exercise.
  • If you bleed or leak water from your vagina, or have cramps in your lower pelvis, stop all exercise immediately and see your doctor before resuming your programme.
  • Never over-exercise, as this can make labour more difficult and Baby more fretful after birth.

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