Move it maternity!

Your doctor or midwife will encourage you to remain active during your pregnancy to ensure you are strong and fit for labour. If you are not taking part in a specific exercise programme where a fitness expert monitors you, you can still keep in shape by being active around the house.

However, you may not have sufficient knowledge to protect yourself or the foetus from harm. Your medical carer will be able to provide good advice, and the following common sense guidelines may help keep your home-based chores safe:

Safety tips
Try to maintain the level of fitness or activity you had before pregnancy. But if you find yourself at home and busy with nursery renovations and walking your dog, whereas before you were sedentary in a desk-bound job, aim not to over-exert yourself. Being active is healthy, but take breaks between tasks so you do not tire.

Never get to the point of breathlessness in your activities; you and your baby need an adequate oxygen supply .

Drink plenty of fluids, your body needs more liquid during pregnancy so you do not overheat. Be careful of doing too many hours of housework or gardening in very hot of humid conditions, and avoid too much time in the sun.

It is not a good idea to lift heavy weights – this includes some aspects of gardening and decorating where you may have to lift a loaded wheelbarrow, for example, or carry a heavy ladder to the nursery for painting. Rather employ someone to do these heavy-duty jobs for you, or ask your partner or a friend.

Chores to avoid

Avoid jobs where you may have to climb up high – and could fall – or where you have to stretch unnecessarily. Let your maintenance person paint that top stretch of wall or put the curtain rail up for you. Remember that your centre of gravity tends to shift during pregnancy.

If you are busy cleaning in the bathroom or kitchen, ensure that your household cleaners are safe for use in pregnancy. Bleach and oven cleaners can be harmful,so make sure you wear gloves when you do these chores, and open windows to ventilate the room in which you are working.

If you have a cat you may want to give the chore of changing the cat litter to someone else. Cats pick up the Toxoplasma gondii parasite from rodents and birds they catch and can pass on an infectious form of it in their faeces. Pregnant women should be careful because contact with cat litter could give them toxoplasmosis, which can seriously harm an unborn baby. If there is no-one to do this chore for you, wear gloves and go outside so you don't breathe in the vapours, and avoid touching your mouth.

If you have a pool at home, and are perhaps teaching a young child to swim, being in the water is great as it provides excellent support for your back and growing tummy. Swimming lengths, playing games in the pool with your children and their friends, and doing the toning exercises you may remember from aqua aerobics, are all good for your overall fitness. Be careful that your children do not jump in the water too near you, though. Protect your tummy from getting in the way if they are playing very energetic games and try not to do too much twisting. You should protect your back at all times. In fact, you may find that floating in the water with an inflatable ring relieves any lower-back pain you are suffering.

Straight up

Be careful of your posture when doing chores such as ironing, sweeping, vacuuming or preparing food. For some of these tasks, it is a good idea to tackle them seated at your kitchen counter (peeling potatoes, chopping vegetables and flower arranging). To take some strain off your lower back whilst ironing, you could try standing with one foot on a surface that is slightly higher, such as a small well-supported box or container. Also, aim to stretch regularly during the task. When you perform cleaning jobs such as vacuuming and sweeping, stand with one leg in front of the other so that your weight is not static and all in one place.

It is important to contact your medical carer if you feel a tall unwell during your activities. She will give you a list of warning signs to watch out for. But generally, maintaining a fit, healthy body throughout your pregnancy will provide you with a number of worthwhile benefits. These include:

  • An easier labour
  • More energy
  • A reduced chance of back pain and
  • The ability to get back into shape with greater ease.

    Did you work out while pregnant? Do you have any tips?
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