Our clients often ask us if they should exercise during pregnancy. And, in most case, we encourage it. But your overall health, base level of fitness and individual pregnancy must be considered.
If you’ve had any pregnancy or health complications, get a professional to establish an individualised exercise program for you – as osteopaths, we are perfectly placed to do this. Otherwise, here are some basic tips on exercise during pregnancy and after.
Exercise moderately during pregnancy
Exercising when you’re pregnant requires more effort. So, listen to your body, lower the intensity accordingly and be aware that, as your body changes, things like your balance may be affected.
It’s best to stick to a moderate level of exercise. A good way to check this is to monitor your heart rate or do the Talk Test – if you can still talk while exercising, then you’re working at a moderate intensity.
Safe exercise to do when you’re pregnant
Activities like walking, swimming, gentle weight training, pregnancy yoga and modified Pilates are recommended exercise during pregnancy.
Low-impact aerobics is also suitable, if it’s not a new activity for you. And if you’re used to running, lower the intensity by jogging or taking a brisk walk. Just avoid any contact or high-risk sports, like rugby or skiing.
Why exercise when you’re pregnant?
Exercising during pregnancy will decrease your likelihood of developing gestational diabetes, hypertensive disorders (such as pre-eclampsia), gaining excessive weight and needing medical interventions.
If you experience vaginal bleeding, regular painful contractions, amniotic fluid leakage, breathlessness before exertion, dizziness, chest pain, muscle weakness affecting balance, and calf pain or swelling, stop exercising immediately – consult your midwife or GP.
Exercise carefully after giving birth
If there was no surgical intervention or musculoskeletal injury during your birth, introduce exercise when you feel ready. But make sure you give yourself enough recovery time. And talk to your lead carer before throwing yourself into exercise.
Safe exercise to do after giving birth
Walking is a great way to get you back into exercise after having a baby. Short bouts of 3–5 minutes a few times a day is a good starting point. Then you can gradually build up to longer and more challenging sessions. Pelvic floor exercises are also recommended – yoga and Pilates incorporate these.
Why exercise after giving birth?
Any form of exercise after giving birth, especially when undertaken in a group, reduces the severity of postnatal depression by 50–60%. And if you’re breastfeeding, it won’t affect your breast milk composition and volume. Just make sure you maintain a healthy, adequate diet and stay hydrated, during and after exercise.
If you’re looking to start or maintain an exercise routine during or after pregnancy, talk to your healthcare team first or a primary care practitioner, like an osteopath.