Physical activity and pregnancy
If there are no problems with your pregnancy, swimming, walking, aerobics and cycle machines are all good exercises as long as you are comfortable. However, you should talk to your midwife (or specialist doctor) before you start any new activity to make sure that the exercise you do won’t harm you or your baby.
Benefits of regular exercise
Regular exercise can help you cope with the physical changes your body undergoes when you become pregnant, and build strength for the challenges that lie ahead.
Research shows that moderate physical activity improves the likelihood of giving birth to a healthy baby and can speed up your recovery after the birth. There are a whole host of other benefits for pregnant women, including:
- improvement in heart and lung fitness
- increased muscle strength to get you ready for carrying your newborn and all the extra equipment you’ll need
- some relief for common problems like leg cramps, constipation, high blood pressure, fatigue, and bloating
- improved posture, which helps avoid backache
- possible reduction in the length of labour and the need for pain relief
- improved circulation
- and it can boost your mood, energy levels, self-image and ability to get a good night’s rest.
Being active for 30 minutes each day can help you to avoid gaining too much weight, strengthen your heart and lungs, and give you the extra energy and strength needed for the birth of your baby.
Choose activities you enjoy that match your level of fitness. You could go for a fast walk, swim, aqua-jog or do any activity that is comfortable for you and leaves you with enough breath to talk as you exercise.
Be careful in hot weather – stay inside or don’t exercise at all. For most women, it’s best to exercise at a moderate or mild level and there are some exercises that are best avoided. The changes your body is going through make certain positions and activities risky for you and your baby. While exercising, try to avoid activities that involve jumping, jarring motions or quick changes in direction that may strain your joints and cause injury.
Pelvic floor muscle exercises
Your pelvic floor muscles support your bladder, uterus (womb) and bowel. They often become weaker during pregnancy and childbirth, so some women wet their pants when they sneeze, cough or exercise. There are exercises you can do to strengthen these muscles and help prevent you from wetting your pants. Your midwife should be able to talk to you about these exercises.