Pre- and Post-Natal Exercise
There are many benefits to exercise during pregnancy. These include;
- Increase in energy levels to help fight against pregnancy fatigue. Tiredness is often prevalent in the first and third trimesters. Participating in a suitable training regime, will actually help maintain energy levels and reduce fatigue.
- Improve sleep. Lack of sleep or the inability to achieve a decent night sleep is a common complaint for pregnant women. Sleep quality can be diminished due to a number of reasons; frequent need to go to toilet and lack of comfort primary amongst them. Research indicates that women participating in regular exercise during pregnancy find that sleep patterns are improved. Not only that, but when they wake up, they feel more rested.
- Create stress relief. Another common side effect to being pregnant is an increase in stress levels. While natural and entirely justified it’s obviously not healthy for the baby. Exercise is proven to release endorphins within your brain to help improve mood and reduce feelings of anxiety. It’s what people call a natural high.
- Healthy baby. Research confirms that mothers who exercise during pregnancy give birth to babies with a healthier weight. They are also able to better cope with the rigours of labour and delivery, and in fact recover from said stresses more quickly and effectively.
A few things to consider are;
- What stage of pregnancy are you? Depending on whether you are first, second or third trimester, will impact upon what you should or should not do. Each trimester is different and your exercise in each period should reflect this. A personal trainer qualified to train women during pregnancy will be able to guide you with a suitable exercise plan.
- Your body is changing and as a result certain hormones will be produced at different levels to normal. One such hormone to be aware of is relaxin. Relaxin softens ligaments and tissues to help increase flexibility in the pelvic and lower back regions to assist in birth. This increase essentially means you should avoid all stretching exercises after entering the third trimester.
- Consider the postural and ballistic impact being pregnant has on your body. Comfort needs to be a consideration. It is important to avoid adding to lower back pressure. A good rule of thumb is to avoid doing any supine exercises (exercises lying on back) after the first trimester. In line with this, any high impact exercise should also be removed from training programme (such as trampling, boxing, skipping, jumping).
Getting back in shape after having a baby is often a high priority. It can also be extremely challenging. Your body has been through a lot and needs time to rest and readjust. Give yourself that time. Basic guidelines suggest that you can return to exercise after around 6-8 weeks. In the event of a C-section, this time period is extended. Exercise should only be resumed after post-natal check-up and with doctor’s approval.