A pregnant exerciser can become healthier than before, by working out diligently and safely, improving eating habits, increasing rest period, and receiving adequate prenatal care.
Women are often unaware that pregnancy, labour and delivery are like training for and participating in a major athletic event. All organs and systems are affected. They are stressed enormously in preparation, formation and growth of the baby.
Did you know that the uterus enlarges 10-15 times within the span of 36 weeks? No other muscle or organ has such a fantastic ability to grow in such a short space of time.
Achievable Goals During Pregnancy
-Cardiovascular fitness can be maintained and even improved during pregnancy. One will enjoy greater levels of energy to get through the day. Muscular strength can be increased during pregnancy, thereby automatically reducing the risk of injury.
-Posture can be substantially improved by
developing the musculoskeletal system.
-Strengthening the abdominals counteracts lordosis, which is a common postural deviation during pregnancy.
-Flexibility is an attainable and a desirable goal during pregnancy.
- It’s important to avoid excessive weight gain, but to learn to cope comfortably with the healthy increase in body weight. This will prevent the pregnant woman from feeling alienated from her body.
-Exercise also reduces anxiety and stress.
Exercise and the birth process
-There is no scientific evidence available to corroborate the view that exercise will ease labour by making it less painful or shorter, or that the risk of complications will be reduced. However, exercise contributes towards improved endurance or stamina, which is a great asset during labour.
-One is better able to use the correct muscles, apply the right amount of pressure, and to effectively relax those muscles which are not directly involved in the different stages of labour.
-Exercise also increases one’s awareness of correct breathing, and its impact on muscular efficiency. This is of great aid to a woman’s management of her own labour.
-Finally, exercise helps you regain your original shape and size much faster post-pregnancy, than if you didn’t exercise at all.
To take into careful consideration
-Although pregnant women are not weak, fragile creatures, many issues need to be understood and considered, and alterations made accordingly.
-Physical work capacity will decrease during the first trimester, increase during the second (although not to pre-pregnancy levels), and then reduce again in the third.
-As hormone production (estrogen and progesterone) increases, one may feel nauseous, irritable, experience dramatic mood swings or feel just plain God-awful.
-At the end of the first trimester, even when at rest, the heart has to work 40 per cent harder than usual. The heart rate increases by 10 beat per minute, and that’s a stupendous 14,000 extra times each day! As a result of all of this, your blood pressure may become higher, and your body temperature will increase.
-As the baby grows bigger and becomes heavier, the centre of gravity will constantly be changing. One may find that their balance is off, and that they feel awkward and clumsy. As a result of the internal organs shifting or being pushed out of the way, you may find the pressure on your bladder mounting, and you might need to get to the bathroom more often than before.
-The body releases a hormone called relaxin during pregnancy, which results in ligament, muscle, tendon and joint laxity. This is essential in order to accommodate the growing foetus. So you may find that you’re more flexible than ever before.
-Breasts may become very tender as a result of all the new vessels and ducts that are developing.
- These changes warrant attention as they can make one more vulnerable to injury. Prenatal exercise must be designed to meet these special needs.
Dos & Don’ts
-Always consult your doctor or gynaecologist before you embark on an exercise programme.
-Always warm-up and cool-down. A minimum of 5-7 minutes for both a warm-up and a cool-down are essential. Include limbering and whole body moves along with stretches. The warm-up will help you stretch out, and get the heart, lungs and muscles ready for exercise. It’s also a very important tool in injury prevention. The cool-down helps you stretch and relax the muscles you have worked hard, while eliminating the waste products of exercise from your system.
-Don’t put up with pain or discomfort. They are signs to stop.
-Breathe. Never hold your breath. Doing this can raise your blood pressure, cause headaches and dizziness, and put too much pressure on the abdomen. Breathe freely, deeply and regularly.
- Low to moderate intensity workouts are preferred during pregnancy. High intensity workout can lead to serious damage. Your heart rate range is best worked out and monitored in conjunction with your physical trainer.
- Ideally, let a well trained, qualified instructor tailor an effective, low impact workout for you. They will make many changes and modifications, like eliminating all cross body moves as the abdomen interferes, and all forward bending moves as they may cause dizziness. Hyperflexion of the joints, such as deep knee plies will also be avoided, as the increased joint laxity we discussed earlier can lead to joint damage, if one is not careful.