FAQs about exercise during pregnancy

Q: Is exercise safe during pregnancy?
A: For the mom-to-be with a healthy, normal pregnancy, exercise can be very safe. For those who have experienced pre-term labour, or had some obstetrical complications in this, or previous pregnancies, exercise may not be recommended, or a programme may need to be specially tailored to fit their specific needs. The bottom-line? Pregnant women should not attempt a fitness programme without consulting their practitioner first. Only by taking a full medical history can your healthcare provider recommend a routine that will be right for you and your baby.

Q: What exercises are best?
A: Moms-to-be are often most comfortable, and have less injuries, when they follow a non-weight bearing exercise routine, such as swimming or cycling using a stationary bike.

Q: I am almost six months pregnant and find that my ankles and fingers are very swollen and puffy. Is there anything that I can do about this?
A: Fluid retention is directly linked to lack of exercise and excess carbohydrate intake. Exercise improves the circulation and mobilises fluid which has settled in the tissues. The excess salt in the body tends to be eliminated and the fluid is lost as part of the changes that occur during exercise. It is equally important to increase one’s water consumption.

Q: I have been told not to exercise on my back while I am pregnant. Why?
A: Exercising on your back for too long, particularly after the fourth month, can decrease the flow of blood to the uterus and should therefore be avoided.

Q: Will exercise make my labour easier?
A: Unfortunately, nobody can guarantee a pain-free labour. However, approaching labour with a strong, healthy and toned body will provide you with the stamina for the strenuous task of delivering your baby.

Q: At what stage can I consider resuming exercise after my delivery?
A: After your birth it is strongly recommended that you attend post-natal exercise classes where the emphasis is on reshaping and toning your body. These classes should not be started until you have had your six week post-natal check-up.

Q: Are there any types of exercises or sport which should be avoided?
A: Exercises that even an athlete should avoid, because of their greater risks include:

  • Jogging more that 4 km a day
  • Horseback riding
  • Water-skiing
  • Diving and jumping into pools
  • Scuba diving (especially as decompression sickness is hazardous to the foetus)
  • Sprinting as this provides too much oxygen too quickly
  • Downhill skiing as you risk a possible fall
  • Cross-country skiing above altitudes of 10 000 feet as the high altitude deprives the foetus and mother of oxygen
  • Contact sports such as football
  • Callisthenics not designed for pregnant women which may pull on the abdomen or stretch the inner thigh muscles or force air into the vagina

Q: Is a warm-up session really necessary?
A: The warm-up is an essential and very important part of your exercise routine. It involves the gentle, slow stretching of muscles to try to eliminate any spasm or cramps, thereby allowing the muscles to function normally. Warm-ups help to prevent any muscles from tearing and your tendons from over stretching, so you should never omit this routine at the beginning of your workout. Warm-ups also promote the circulation and re-route the bloodflow to the muscles rather than to other organs in the body.

Questions answered by Perfectly Pregnant, (021) 683 1404.

Source: Perfectly Pregnant
(Megan Powell, November 2003) 

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