It is accepted that the benefits of exercise during pregnancy are both physical and psychological in nature.
Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy
- Healthier weight gain
- Helps stabilise emotions
- Increases energy levels
- May result in easier labour and delivery
- Reduces cramping and back pain
- Minimises constipation issues
- Reduces the risk of delivery complications
- Improve stability, balance and flexibility
- Reduces the risk of gestational diabetes which can occur in up to 12% of women during pregnancy
Let's take a look at two common issues that can be improved or prevented with exercise during pregnancy
Pregnant woman who don't pay attention to their posture and make deliberate adjustments end up with arched backs, a poor walking gait and difficulty moving about. If posture alignment during pregnancy stages is not considered it is more likely that the muscles, tendons and ligaments will be placed in unhealthy positions resulting in strain and pain.
A pregnant woman will naturally carry an additional load of 'pregnancy weight'.
If not moving with good postural alignment, this is going to put unnecessary strain on the joints which can have undesired long term negative effects on physical health.
Too Much Weight Gain
Nearly half of all pregnant woman are thought to put on more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy. Weight gain in individuals with a normal body mass index is in the range of 11.4-15.9Kg.
This additional weight can potentially cause pregnancy complications such as:
- Caesarean section
- Macrosomia (oversized fetus - overweight newborn)
- Not being able to lose the weight after giving birth
- Gestational diabetes which is associated with morbidity in both the offspring and the mother and also increases the risk of the child being prone to obesity and diabetes later in life.
- Women who gain more than the recommended amount of weight retain twice as much weight after pregnancy.
A useful report to assist woman in considering their own personal weight gain limits - PubMed Health report - Weight Gain in Pregnancy
Physical Activity during pregnancy may contribute to the prevention of excessive maternal weight gain and thus is crucial in assisting the vicious circle of gestational diabetes, childhood obesity, adult obesity and diabetes.
Exercise After Pregnancy
It is believed that woman who exercise during pregnancy are more likely to continue exercising postpartum. This has long term health benefits.
Mild exercise such as walking, pelvic floor exercises and stretching may begin immediately after delivery so long as the pregnancy had no complications. If there were complications or birth was by caesarean section, a medical assessment should be carried out, usually after the first postpartum check-up at 6-8 weeks.
Benefits of exercise after pregnancy include improved fitness levels, facilitated weight loss, raised positive mood, reduced anxiety and depression and more energy.
Pilates for Pregnancy
It is suggested that less than 25% of pregnant woman are exercising for the recommended 30mins a day. Joining a weekly Pilates class that focuses on mat/floor based body weight exercises offers added advantage that you can practise at home what you learnt in class. This makes it easier and more effective to achieve the 30mins a day of physical exercise.
During the stages of pregnancy a woman's body will go through incredible changes. Exercising during these physical adaptations requires an exercise system that is safe and suitably adaptable for appropriate strength and stability maintenance.
Chartered Physiotherapists, experts in the functioning of the human body, who are also Pilates instructors having undergone specific pregnancy Pilates training, are able to offer the highest level of professional exercise guidance.
Having the great responsibility for yours and your babys’ health it makes sense to make the best choice available to you when it comes to safe and effective exercise.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ACOG committee opinion no 267: exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Obstet Gynecol 2002;99:171-3.
RCOG. Exercise in Pregnancy. London: RCOG 2006
Fact sheet: Weight gain in pregnancy June 19, 2009.
German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG).