Precautions for Exercising during Pregnancy

Exercising during pregnancy has many benefits, including helping with weight control, reducing the impact of gestational diabetes, promoting a smooth delivery process, etc. However, our body goes through huge changes during pregnancy, thus it may not be able to tolerate just any form of exercise. It is not uncommon that pregnant mummies suffer from pain due to inappropriate exercises.

The good news is that there are precautions we can take to make exercises safe during pregnancy.

The timeline

If you have been physically active before the pregnancy, it is safe to continue with your regular exercises during the first trimester of pregnancy, given that no high impact sports is involved.

For someone with a sedentary lifestyle before pregnancy, and keen to start some exercises during pregnancy, it is advised to only start exercising from the second trimester when the pregnancy is more stable.

During the third trimester of the pregnancy, the intensity of the exercise should be gradually reduced rather than increased.

Start with the Kegels and basic strengthening

Pregnancy puts a lot of strain on the pelvic floor muscles, as well as the lower back and leg muscles. Weaker muscles get strained easily and develops pain when they are over-worked. That's why a lot of pregnant mummies develop pain when they start to exercise.

Before starting with ambitious workout plans such as long walks or cardio, it is important to make sure that the muscles are strong enough to tolerate the exercises, especially for moms who were sedentary before pregnancy. Spend 2 weeks doing the Kegel exercises and squats is a good way to prepare these muscles. It helps to prevent pain developing in the lower back and pelvis.

Throughout your workout sessions, also take note of any leakage of urine on physical exertion. It is a sign that the pelvic floor muscles are not able to tolerate the workload, and needs to be strengthened first.

You don't need to exercise every single day

Many mummies set up ambitious plans, such as going for a one-hour walk every day, ended up developing pain, and had to stop exercises totally.

Exercising every day, especially at the start of an exercise program, is not a good idea. The body needs rest to actually benefit from the exercises. It is during the rest days between the exercise sessions that the muscles grow in size, and tissues recover from stress. At least one day of rest is needed between two exercise sessions.

No breath holding

Breath holding may be common during strengthening exercises, but it is not a good practice when exercising during pregnancy. The pregnant mom shares her oxygen supply with the baby. When the mom holds the breath, it reduces oxygen available for the baby. So always remember to breathe.

Wear good supportive shoes

The pregnant body needs to support a lot of weight. But on the other hand, under the influence of hormonal changes, joints throughout the body are becoming more flexible to prepare for the delivery. Flexibility increases in the feet as well, leading to reduced foot arch. A reduced foot arch could not absorb as much shock as it used to. Thus wearing supportive shoes, like running shoes with thick bottom, helps to reduce the stress on the legs, and minimizes pains and aches during and after exercises.

"No Pain No Gain" does not apply

Exercises should always be pain free. It may feel strenuous, but definitely not painful. Do not push beyond pain.

Don't forget the stretchings

Exercises tend to tighten up the muscles over time. Excessive tightness can lead to pain as well. The regular stretching exercises are still of benefit during pregnancy. The important muscle groups that need to be stretched include the calf, adductors (inner thigh muscles), gluts (buttock muscles), and chest muscles.

Stretching exercises can be done after your workout routine, or on a rest day.

Avoid exercises that require prolonged lying down on your back

Lying down facing up may no longer be comfortable for a lot of pregnant moms especially towards the end of the pregnancy. The baby may compress on the major blood vessels in the tummy and lead to giddiness for the mom in this position. Therefore exercises such as bridges that require lying down on your back may not be suitable for later stage of pregnancy.

Doing workouts at home has been a new trend since the pandemic. Always make sure that you follow workouts suitable for pregnant ladies so that the risks are minimized!