Is it OK to Exercise during Pregnancy

….if I didn’t Exercise before Pregnancy?

Dr Bronwyn Hamilton Obstetrician

Written by Dr Bronwyn Hamilton (Obstetrician & Gynaecologist in Melbourne) and Kerryn Boyle (Founder of Pregactive, Melbourne).

Yes!! Pregnancy is a time when women are keen to focus on their health and their unborn baby. There is never a better time to commence regular exercise once you are pregnant if you haven’t already.

Pregnancy is not the time to start some extreme sport, contact sport, high impact sport or some new hot fitness fad that may cause you or your baby harm.

However; staying active and moving during your pregnancy is recommended, even if you were sedentary prior to getting pregnant.

The RANZCOG (Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians) recommends pregnant women in the absence of pregnancy complications engage in 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week, if not all days of the week. If previously inactive, it is recommended to start with 15-20 minute blocks and work up to 30 minutes at a time.

Your first step is to speak to your doctor and get their approval. The key to safely exercising when pregnant is to pay attention to what your body is telling you. Keep your exercise at a moderate level. Avoid over-heating.

Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water. And look out for warning signs for when you need to stop exercising such as: Chest pain, Vaginal bleeding/leaking of fluid, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, pelvic pain, muscle weakness, dizziness, irregular or rapid heartbeact, reduced movements of the baby.

The greatest risk is actually ‘inactivity’ as it could lead to:
• Gestational diabetes
• Excessive weight gain
• High blood pressure
• A higher risk for Caesarean section

Benefits of exercise in pregnancy include:

Prevention of Gestational Diabetes, Preeclampsia/High blood pressure in pregnancy, Preterm birth and musculoskeletal conditions including lower back pain, a common complaint in pregnant women. Exercise also assists with maintenance of healthy weight, improved pain tolerance, mental health and self-image.

Regular physical activity can reduce the risk Gestational diabetes-related adverse events such as having a big baby (birth-weight >4kg) and therefore emergency caesarean section rates, and it has been shown to assist in postpartum recovery.

Aside from preventing pregnancy complications regular exercise has also been shown to benefit the unborn baby giving the newborn child a neurological advantage.

Exercise during Pregnancy

Types of exercise to avoid:
Avoid Any High Impact (Contact) Exercise during Pregnancy!
Why? You risk losing your balance/you could fall and there is risk of collision and ultimately risk of causing harm to baby.

Examples of Exercises during Pregnancy to Avoid:
• Skiing (snow and water)
• Football
• Soccer, basketball
• Volleyball
• Horseback riding

Others types of Exercise to avoid include:
• Plyometrics
• Jumping
• Skipping
• Hopping as these can put strain on the ligaments in your pelvis which can cause discomfort.

And avoid Any exercises putting too much strain on your abdominal wall muscles particularly after 20 weeks as this can cause you to develop a rectus diastasis (gap between abdominal muscles).

Always seek medical approval before starting any new exercise program. There are some medical conditions that may prevent you from exercising.

As you progress through each trimester you will notice significant body changes besides your growing belly. You must listen to your body and stop trying to push the limits.

Written by Dr Bronwyn Hamilton (Obstetrician & Gynaecologist in Melbourne) and Kerryn Boyle (Founder of Pregactive, Melbourne)