The Science of Pregnancy is a Fascinating Process
For the expectant mother, the body changes that occur to accommodate baby is a beautiful – albeit – very new experience. It all becomes very real, sometimes confronting, and for some women it can be particularly overwhelming to see such a change to the body they have invested a lot of emotional time in loving.
There are some biological changes that we can control and others we cannot. Skin changes such as melasma (dark pigmentation due to a hormonal swing in pregnancy) and stretch marks are two components of pregnancy that are more common by hereditary.
Weight gain and pelvic floor strengthening is something that we can definitely control and here we will touch briefly on what exercises can be safely undertaken throughout pregnancy to maintain good health, strength and vitality.
In this article we will touch on the expected weight gain in pregnancy and what we recommended when it comes how to keep active in pregnancy.
Weight Gain in Pregnancy:
The average weight gain is between 10 – 15 kilograms. This is to account for the baby, the placenta, amniotic fluid and increased blood volume.
The spread of weight will affect each woman differently in pregnancy. Factors such as general health and fitness prior to pregnancy, body shape and age at the time of conceiving will affect the weight distribution. Health ailments such as hormone and thyroid issues, (gestational) diabetes, medications and lifestyle restrictions will also affect the outcome of weight distribution in pregnancy.
The best way to control your weight gain during pregnancy is to elect in the practice of pregnancy-safe exercise.
What are The Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy?
There are lots of good reasons to keep active when you’re pregnant.
Exercise improves your muscle tone, strength and endurance, which may make it easier for you to adapt to the changes that pregnancy brings, prepare for labour and birth, and get back in shape after your baby is born.
Regular exercise will also help you carry the weight you gain in pregnancy, boost your mood and energy levels, improve sleep, and reduce aches and pains. And it may help you have a shorter labour and increase your chances of giving birth vaginally.
Being active will also give you the chance to meet other mums-to-be, if you opt for a class.
The following types of exercise are generally safe in pregnancy, although you may need to modify or slow down some of them as your pregnancy progresses.
Gentle exercise in moderation during pregnancy encourages physical and psychological well-being. A gentle routine has been proven to decrease the risk of gestation diabetes and hypertension and will assist in the preservation of muscle tone, and will help with recovery post-birth.
Many studies show that those who engage in an active lifestyle are less likely to suffer depression, have improved self-esteem and elevated mood. These psychological benefits are linked to reducing antenatal and postnatal depression, and can lead to a more socially active pregnancy.
Brisk walking keeps you fit without jarring your knees and ankles, and gives your heart a workout. You can do it almost anywhere, and the only equipment you need is a good pair of supportive shoes.
Walking is safe throughout pregnancy, and can be built into your daily routine. Walk to the shops rather than drive, take the bus only part of the way, or do a brisk few laps of the park or footpaths in your lunch hour.
To keep yourself motivated, you could download an app that tracks the number of steps you take. You may be surprised by how much you move just running errands throughout the day!
Swimming is an ideal, and safe, form of exercise during pregnancy. It exercises your arms and legs, works your heart and lungs, and lets you feel weightless no matter how big your bump gets.
If you enjoy group activity, you could join an aquanatal class or aqua aerobics class.
Aerobic exercise strengthens your heart and tones your body. It’s safe as long as you keep the exercises low-impact, to protect your joints.
Jogging is one of the quickest and most efficient ways to work your heart and build endurance during pregnancy. You can vary the distance as your energy levels allow.
The intensity of your run depends on whether or not you’re an experienced runner. If you were only an occasional jogger before you got pregnant, get the go-ahead from your doctor or midwife first and then start at a slow pace on shorter routes, before gradually building up to 30-minute jogs.
If you didn’t do much or any jogging before, it’s best not to start during pregnancy, so try choosing another form of exercise instead.
Stretching helps keep your body supple and relaxed, and prevent muscle strain. Don’t overdo it, though. Think about gently opening and extending your body, rather than pushing yourself.
Add stretching to your aerobic exercises to get a complete workout. It’s a great way to warm up before a session, and cool down afterwards.
As long as you use good technique (meaning slow, controlled movements), using light weights is a great way to tone and strengthen your muscles.
Building strength during pregnancy will help prepare you for all the baby lifting you’ll be doing soon!
Pelvic Floor Exercises
Exercising your pelvic floor is really important during and after pregnancy. If you have weak pelvic floor muscles, you may leak small amounts of wee when you exercise, cough or sneeze (stress incontinence). You can prevent this from happening by doing pelvic floor exercises every day.
How Often Should I Be Exercising?
According to The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG), you should aim to be active daily. Many of the exercises we have listed can be performed on a daily basis when pregnant.
Listen to your body, your obstetrician and/or your midwife and adjust your exercise routine where advised.
Ideally, we recommend you aim for 2.5 – 5 hours per week of gentle exercise during pregnancy.
Before commencing any exercise program in pregnancy, speak to your doctor or midwife to make sure you do not have any health issues that may prevent you from participating in regular activities during your pregnancy.
If you are an obstetric patient of Dr Elgey’s and have a question about your exercise routine, be sure to chat with out team at your next appointment!