Being active during your pregnancy

24 November 2017

As Diabetes Awareness Month draws to a close, Sport Gisborne Tairāwhiti Active Health Manager Toni Hoskins, has put together this short article about being active during preganancy.

Becoming or remaining physically active in pregnancy has a huge impact on overall health, let’s take a look at a few of the real benefits of being active during pregnancy.

1. Helps us to feel better; boosts our mood, lessens aches andpains. Improves sleep, energy levels, posture and relieves stress. Being active also helps to get back into shape once baby is born and also reduces the likelihood of experiencing post-natal depression.

2. Helps to keep us healthy; better management of weight gain, reduces the risk of developing gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia.

However, if gestational diabetes has developed, then being regularly active will help with blood glucose control, which is essential for the health of baby. Being active throughout pregnancy has also been shown to reduce the likelihood of developing later-onset Type 2 Diabetes.

3. Helps prepare for pregnancy and labour. Building muscle strength and endurance helps during pregnancy the ‘workout’ of labour! Research shows that regular activity during pregnancy shortens the duration of active labour, thus reducing stress on mother and baby.

4. Helps to keep baby healthy. Mums who are active throughout their pregnancy are more likely to have babies of a healthy weight, reducing the babies risk of developing health issues later in life such as type 2 diabetes.

Exercise is so beneficial that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies, aim to exercise at least 20 to 30 minutes a day, with moderate intensity on most or all days of the week.

So what could this look like?

Activities that make us huff and puff a bit (aerobic activities) are great, as are those that improve muscle strength and endurance. The intensity of these exercises should be at the low-moderate level, when you can say to yourself, “yes I can feel I am working, but I feel comfortable”.

If you haven’t done much prior to becoming pregnant, start with activities that you feel really comfortable with and keep to a low level of intensity, walking is great.

There are a range of activities that would be suitable e.g. walking, stationary cycling, swimming, aquatic activities (water walking, aquafitness), conditioning machines and some exercise classes taken by qualified instructors.

Not all types of exercise are safe and appropriate, activities to avoid include:

  • Activities that require you to lie flat on your back, as pregnancy progresses the weight of the uterus on the blood vessels may make it difficult for blood to return to the heart.
  •  Any activity that increases the risk of falling or abdominal trauma e.g., contact/collision sports, horseback riding, downhill skiing, water skiing, outdoor cycling, basketball, and scuba diving
  • Activities that require rapid changes of direction or repetitive jarring/bouncing e.g. racquet sports
  • Activities done to exhaustion.

With whatever you choose to do here are a few things to consider:

  • If you have had complications in previous pregnancies, or in your current pregnancy, check with your LMC or GP before starting
  • Do things that you enjoy
  • Set aside time each day to either enjoy the alone-time or to connect with others as you exercise
  • Keep breathing as you exercise, try not to breath-hold
  • Keep an eye on your temperature, avoid being active in hot, humid conditions
  • Try to have a small snack about an hour prior to exercise
  • Keep drinking, water is best
  • Stop any activity and see your LMC/GP if you feel things aren’t ‘quite right’, if you start spotting, experience repeated contractions or unfamiliar sensations/pain
  • If you are not sure what you could, or should, do ask your GP about a Green Prescription (GRx), the GRx team will help you develop an activity plan that is both safe and enjoyable for you and your baby.

Being active is a natural and normal part of life, as is pregnancy. Both have the potential to positively change your life. Enjoy.