Exercise during pregnancy is vital for your and your baby’s health. As per The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, around 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day is suitable for pregnant women unless they have certain complications.
Some of the benefits are explained as follows:
• Adequate fitness activities ensure that you maintain a healthy body weight which also has a positive impact on cardiovascular health.
• Regular exercise during pregnancy can ease common discomforts such as lower back pain, fatigue and constipation by improving your posture.
• It aids in alleviating your mood and energy levels along with relieving stress, allowing you to sleep soundly.
• Regular exertion especially outdoors helps in avoiding prenatal depression which many women suffer from, due to marital problems and poor sleep.
• It improves muscle strength and helps in building stamina which in turn helps in building endurance so that you have an easy labor and a smooth delivery.
• Following a regular exercise regime also protects you from gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes which develops during pregnancy and also prevents hypertension.
• Your body retains more fluids during pregnancy, and the growing uterus puts pressure on the veins, impairing the flow of blood to the heart. Exercise limits this by improving blood circulation and hence reduces leg swelling.
• It increases your chances of a natural delivery
• Maintaining a healthy body during pregnancy cuts down the chances of preterm labor and birth, need for pain relief, extended labor and the recovery time post-delivery.
Before taking up any kind of exercise regime during pregnancy, it’s important that you consult your obstetrician.
If you have been exercising regularly and have no pregnancy related complications, then there should not be any problem in continuing with your daily fitness regimes. However, you need to modify the exercise as per the demands of your pregnancy trimester.
If you do not follow regular exercise regime, do not start any new strenuous activity. Start off slow after consulting with your doctor and move up your activity levels at your own pace. Brisk Walking or swimming are the best activities to begin your fitness schedule with.
• Research proves that the babies of active moms have healthier hearts and this improved cardio fitness extends well in to the childhood years.
• Babies of moms who exercised regularly while pregnant also have a healthier birth weight and lower fat mass. These babies are less likely to suffer from childhood obesity.
• Regular exercise prevents gestational diabetes in mothers-to-be, and this also reduces the chances of their babies developing diabetes later in their life.
• Babies born to moms who have been following a prenatal exercise regime also display advanced neurobehavioral maturation as research shows that these children have better scores in language and intelligence tests.
Who Should Not Exercise During Pregnancy?
You should avoid exercise during pregnancy if you suffer from any medical problems such as asthma, cardiovascular dysfunctions, diabetes, etc. Additionally, if you have any pregnancy related conditions such as bleeding or spotting, low placenta, recurrent or threatened miscarriages, history of premature labor or births, weak cervix, etc., do not follow any exercise regimen or do so only after counting your doctor.
• Before starting any exercise regimen, it is important to do some stretches to warm up your muscles joints and prevent injury, especially when you are pregnant. Practice Neck, Shoulder and Ankle rotation, thigh shifts and leg shakes as a warm up round before starting off the schedule.
• Make sure you are dressed in loose and comfortable clothes
• Your shoes should be well fitted and comfortable
• The temperature in which you are exercising should be optimal
• Drink water before you begin and keep a bottle handy. Do not exercise immediately after eating.
• Be aware of your capture of gravity, which has shifted due to pregnancy, while exercising to avoid losing balance. Avoid sudden jerky movements
• Do not exercise if you feel too tired or unwell. Do not overexert yourself.
Five simple exercises to for a Healthy baby and Smooth delivery
The below exercises can help in getting your baby into an optimal birthing position and strengthening your pelvic floor, along with ensuring a normal delivery.
1. Brisk Walking
Walking is one of the simplest yet very effective exercises for pregnant women. Walking helps in flexibility while avoiding abnormal fat gain. It protects against problems like constipation, restlessness and hypertension. It is recommended to go for a 30 minute walk every day preferably close to nature which helps in relieving stress.
2. Pelvic Stretches and Tilts
Pelvic stretches are considered to be supremely beneficial to pregnant women to facilitate a smooth normal delivery. To be performed by sitting on a ball, pillow or a chair. Keep your feet rooted to the ground, stretch your legs apart and with your back straightened. This will lead to the shifting and stretching of your pelvis back and forth. Repeat this up to 20 times depending on how comfortable you are with this posture.
Pelvic tilts or the Angry Cat posture helps to ease the labor pain and strengthens you back for a normal delivery. Get on all fours, suck in your abdominal muscles, and pull your buttocks on the same line as your stomach and then release.
3. Kegel Exercises
Kegel exercises are pelvic floor exercises strengthen the muscles supporting the bladder, uterus and bowels, surrounding the vaginal and rectal area. Doing these exercises during pregnancy will help you to develop the ability to relax and control your muscles in the strenuous process of labor and birth. Kegel exercises are also highly recommended during the postpartum phase to hasten the healing of the perianal tissues, restore the muscles of the pelvic floor and improve urinary control. To do Kegels, contract or hold your pelvic floor muscles by visualization that you are trying to halt the urine flow or trying not to pass gas. Do not move your leg, buttock, or abdominal muscles while doing these exercises. It is recommended that you do five sets of Kegels in a day, with tencontractionseach, holding each contraction for five counts and then releasing.
4. Prenatal Yoga Poses
Yoga is an ancient form of exercise which is considered to be one of the best activities for ensuring a smooth pregnancy and delivery. It is an excellent way for pregnant women to prepare her mind and body for the baby. The practice consists of a combination of physical exertions, meditation and relaxation benefits maternal and fetal health in the following ways
• Practicing prenatal yoga for an hour each day until childbirth helps to improve the birth weight reduces chances of premature labor and delivery, isolated intrauterine isolation, and hypertension.
• It improves muscles strength, stamina and flexibility which helps your body prepare for labor.
• Many pregnant women suffer from disturbed sleep during pregnancy due to physical discomforts during the last stages of pregnancy, when the comfortable sleeping positions are limited or due to fetal movements. Practicing yoga releases such stress, anxiety and pain, enabling the mother to rest.
• Yoga helps ease the aches and pains common during pregnancy as it helps in stretching the muscles, improving the breathing pattern and boosting blood circulation.
• Prenatal yoga helps combat lower back pain, carpel tunnel syndrome, shortness of breath, headaches and nausea.
Some of the postures which benefit pregnant women are as listed below.
• Vakrasna (Twisted pose) – This posture helps in strengthening the spine, neck, hands and legs. It gently massages the organs in the Lower abdominal cavity which facilitates normal delivery.
• Utkatasana (Chair poses) – This posture stretches the muscles of the chest, the spine and the hips, strengthening the lower back and torso. This helps in attaining balance as well as mental strength. It allows the mothers’ body to get ready for labor.
• Konasana (Angle poses) – This yoga posture stretches your spinal cord and the sides of your body, toning your arms, legs and abdominal organs. Pregnant women who suffer from constipation or sciatica pain can practice this asana to get some relief.
• Paryankasana (Ham’s Pose with One Leg): Aimed at strengthening the thighs, abdomen and pelvic floor, this posture improves breathing and fights fatigue during labor.
• Bhadrasana (Butterfly pose) – This yoga asana focuses on your inner thighs and improves blood circulation in the pelvic region. This asana may help in smooth labor.
• Parvatasana (Mountain poses) -This yoga posture helps in relieving back pains and discomforts by stretching the muscles of the abdomen, arms and back.
• Yastikasana (Stick pose)-A simple pose which focuses on the abdominal and pelvic muscles which prepares the body for normal delivery and helps you beat stress and fatigue during pregnancy and labor.
5. Cobbler Poses
The cobbler pose, also known as the Tailor pose helps to open up and stretch the pelvic area. This region comes under a lot of stress during labor and hence needs to be flexible to assist the baby to easily pass through the birth canal. Additionally, the hip and thigh muscles also get strengthened helping to ease lower back pains and discomfort.
In the Tailor sit you need to sit down on the floor, keeping your knees bent and ankles crossed. You then need to lean forward slightly while making sure your back is straight but relaxed.
In Tailor Press you need to sit on the floor, keeping your knees bent and then pulls the bottoms of your feet together. After doing this grasp your ankles and pull your feet gently towards your body. Inhale while placing your hands on your knees and while pressing your knees back against your hands.
Following a regular exercise regime during pregnancy will help you cope better with the stress, strain and discomforts, building your stamina to ensure a smooth delivery and a healthy baby.