Exercising during pregnancy: Safety, Benefits & Guidelines

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Dr Anita Sharma (PT)

Wondering which month to start exercise during pregnancy? Not sure about doing pregnancy exercises at home? First, lets understand more about the emotions that pregnant women tend to undergo during this time. "I am not sick, I am Pregnant' came a prompt reply from one of the mother-to-be, who was being offered to run an errand by a colleague at work.

Yes, many expecting mothers who attend childbirth education classes get reconnected to nature and themselves, their ability to conceive, and give birth just as nature designed us to be. We often see pregnant women, mothers-to-be working on the street, in the farms, on high mountain terrains, on the beach helping a fisherman husband or rather a second time mother running behind her toddler, blissfully ignorant of her pregnancy leaving everything to nature.

Amazing isn't it and this answers all our questions and doubts about benefits of exercise during pregnancy and whether there are negative effects of exercise during pregnancy! Exercises are safe at all stages of pregnancy and you can even dance your way into labor like we do while supporting a mother in labor. As doulas, we along with her partner are exercising both the mind and body to make the mother as comfortable as possible during her birthing processes.

Research and evidence show no correlation between bed rest and outcome of pregnancy especially in the first trimester. High risk pregnancy with low lying placenta or preterm labor, bed rest may be recommended to avoid any shearing force on the placenta and eliminate gravitational forces towards the latter half of the pregnancy.

Benefits of exercise during pregnancy

The benefits of exercising during pregnancy, labor and postpartum are many:

  • Pregnancy increases demand by 40-60 % on all our biological systems owing to the weight gain.
  • Exercising in pregnancy ensures a smooth transition from one trimester to the other by increasing cardiopulmonary endurance to cope with increased demands on the body.
  • The musculoskeletal system also starts making postural adjustment which may become permanent leading to back and knee issues in future.
  • The stretching of the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy and birth may cause problems like diastasis recti, herniation and urinary incontinence.

If all women are well informed about the importance of correct exercises during pregnancy and postpartum, we could prevent many such women health issues.

Urban women of today are less active, more sedentary, machine and technology driven with very little physical activity both at work and home require well supervised exercise program to prevent injuries when they start exercising for the first time in pregnancy.

Those who are physically active and already on an exercise routine can continue the same.

A word of caution as a mother advances in her pregnancy.

The biomechanical factors such as a shift in the center of gravity and loosening of ligaments and joints would require her to slow down in duration and speed with larger rest periods during her workouts.Meditation and relaxation should be an integral part of the routine especially because anxiety builds up as the mother comes closer to delivery.

Physically active moms with a good exercise regime ensures healthy pregnancy, easy delivery and a healthy woman for life.

The author works at Fortis La Femme, New Delhi. Views expressed are the author's own.