Recently I came across an article regarding exercise and pregnant women. This made me think, there haven’t been many blogs on this website talking about pregnancy and exercise, so why not talk about that today? Is exercise while being pregnant safe? Are there certain sports you cannot do or exercises which you absolutely should do while pregnant? That and more, in today’s blog.
Let's start with overview!
Let’s kick it off with a mind-blowing fact, each year about 211 million women become pregnant but not all of these women actually workout or stay active during their pregnancy. Is that because it maybe is dangerous to exercise while being pregnant or is that a false accusation?
Research has shown that exercising during pregnancy can have many beneficial effects. For starters the obvious, a healthy mother is always better than an unhealthy mother. Fit women possibly improve their ability to cope with labour and will help recovery after the baby is born.
But there is more. As you may already know, exercise improves your quality of sleep. Your body is working very hard on repairs and developments while you sleep, especially when you are pregnant. Good sleep is essential, and exercise can help you with this. Furthermore, exercise can help reduce backaches, constipation and bloating. On top of that, it can improve your energy, mood and posture.
All of these benefits are for the mother who is carrying the baby, but what about the baby? Does exercise have an impact on the baby’s development?
One research concluded the following:
‘Evidence continues to grow in support of the notion that exercise during pregnancy is beneficial for fetal health and well-being, extending into childhood. Benefits for offspring are observable related to body weight and composition, cardiovascular health, and nervous system development. Exercise during pregnancy may elicit a prenatal programming effect, creating a healthy environment in utero during a critical time of organ development.’ This indicates that mothers can help to give their baby a head start in living a healthy life by being healthy and exercise during their pregnancy.
Just 30 minutes of exercise per day could already do the trick. But I hear you thinking, ‘what kind of exercise? I can imagine not every kind of sport is possible for pregnant women.’ And that is correct. High impact sports such as volleyball, football, tennis and more sports like those are not really appropriate. Instead you should try swimming, yoga, (supervised) resistance training and/or walking. But I highly recommend first getting the approval of your doctor to perform any kind of sport and discuss the risks.
Is it always good thing?
There was a lot of controversies when Kerri Walsh Jennings played Olympic Volleyball while being pregnant. Many associations, including the American Pregnancy Association, cautioned against her playing due to the risks and vulnerability of impact. However, she had discussed it with her obstetrician who judged it to be safe to play for her and gave the approval.
Everybody is different and therefore it is highly recommended to discuss sports and exercise with your obstetrician to make sure it's safe.
Last but not least, for certain people, exercise while being pregnant is not recommended. It mostly includes people who have asthma, diabetes or heart disease.
If you have experienced bleeding/spotting, low placenta, previous premature births or a history of early labour, exercise might be harmful.
Other than that, I suggest you have a chat with your obstetrician and start exercising for your own but also your newborn's health!