I know what you are thinking…there is so much to balance during pregnancy, and you’re asking me to be active. Between the nausea, planning, working, discomfort and lack of sleep, where is there possibly time to workout.
Working with a professional prior to pregnancy can help ensure that you are prepared for pregnancy but also take the stress off the process.
How early you may ask?
I would like to say it is ideal to start working with a dietitian up to one year before conceiving. This will give us time to ensure that all your nutrient needs are met through supplementation, we have mentally prepared you for the process and allows us to focus solely on thriving during pregnancy rather than catch up.
But let’s get back to the topic of pregnancy and physical activity. In general, physical activity can reduce stress, increase energy, and better your posture . There are many evidenced-based benefits of engaging in physical activity if you are pregnant [1,3,4, 5 6]:
- Reduced aches and pains
- Reduced constipation (which is common during pregnancy)
- Helps with bloating
- Reduced swelling of your hands, legs, and feet
- Improved energy levels
- Strengthens your body for labour and delivery
- Reduced risk of preeclampsia (which is characterized by high blood pressure and can result in protein in your urine and excessive water retention)
- Preventing or better management of gestational diabetes
- Decreased risk of preterm birth
- Higher evidence of vaginal delivery
- Releases endorphins, relaxing the body and elevating mood
How much are we talking about?
What I like to see is women being active for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity for at least 3 days of the week up to 7 . Doing what feels comfortable during a potentially uncomfortable time so try to pick a few different ways to do aerobic and resistance training throughout the week is seen to be most beneficial. This could be swimming, walking, cycling, strength training, yoga and/or gentle stretching.
What are the benefits?
These exercises benefit your strength and mobility during pregnancy, labour and delivery, and post-natal recovery.  Pelvic floor muscle training (kegels) is a type of daily exercise we can forget to engage in but is highly recommended to reduce the risk of urinary incontinence.
What you should keep in mind?
Although there is so many benefits of physical activity during pregnancy, here are some key points to keep in mind:
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after exercise; when your urine is light in colour and you’re going a lot, then you have a normal fluid balance.
- Warm up & cool down. Too often we skip a warm-up or cool-down during exercise to save time, however, these are key elements in physical activity – especially while pregnant! Warming up will aid in mobility during exercise and cool-downs help with recovery post-exercise.
Despite physical activity being recommended during pregnancy, there are some types of physical activity that are not recommended to engage in while pregnant. Do not start a new style of exercise or activity once you’re pregnant; if you did not run before pregnancy, do not start running now – instead walk, it is a great aerobic activity ! Avoid physical activity when pregnant that poses a risk to you or your child.
- Sports with a risk of falling (contact sports)
- Pressure changes (high altitude hiking)
- Uneven terrain
- Activities that require jumping or jarring motions (ex. High impact aerobic classes)
- Certain yoga positions that add pressure to the abdomen (ex. Extreme backbends, inversions)
- Activities that require you to lay on your back and work abdominal muscles
- Hot yoga or hot pilates (re avoid overheating)
- Heavy lifting that involves strain
- Scuba diving
- Downhill skiing
- Horseback riding
Who should avoid physical activity?
Sometimes engaging in physical activity is not recommended, and it is important to always have informed conversations with your healthcare provider and ask questions to learn more. People suffering from the following conditions may be recommended to avoid physical activity during pregnancy: [1,2]
- Persistent second or third term bleeding
- Severe anemia
- High blood pressure
- Weakened cervix
- Multiple pregnancies (i.e., triplets or more)
- Uncontrolled type 1 diabetes
Despite many opinions of avoiding physical activity during pregnancy, it is important to note that there is plenty of evidence to support the benefits of physical activity during pregnancy but discuss with your healthcare provider if you are unsure if physical activity during pregnancy is safe for you.
In conclusion, if you are healthy during pregnancy, it is safe to continue or start regular physical activity. Physical activity does not increase your risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, or early delivery. However, it is important to discuss exercise with your healthcare provider during your appointments.
- The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. (n.d.) Exercise during pregnancy. https://www.pregnancyinfo.ca/your-pregnancy/healthy-pregnancy/exercise-during-pregnancy/
- Physical & Emotional Fitness. BestStart. (n.d.)https://en.beststart.org/resources-and-research/prenatal-education-program
- Berghella, V. & Saccone, G. (2017) Exercise in pregnancy!https://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378(17)30130-8/fulltext
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020). Preeclampsia. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/preeclampsia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355745#:~:text=Preeclampsia%20is%20a%20pregnancy%20complication,blood%20pressure%20had%20been%20normal.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020). Gestational diabetes. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gestational-diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20355339