Exercising while pregnant: it’s always a bit tricky, since you may be unsure as to whether your workout will be safe to both mommy-to-be and fetus. Since this merits a serious discussion, we spoke with kinesiologist, health professional and working mom Jolyane Bérubé for the benefits of exercising while pregnant and tips on doing it right!
Benefits of exercise for pregnant women
A better ability to unwind, allowing for a more rejuvenating sleep.
An increase in energy.
More physical strength and a greater resistance to pain.
A decrease of the swelling of the legs (due to a better venous return).
A decrease in constipation problems (caused by a hormonal imbalance).
A lower risk of pre-eclampsia (hypertension during pregnancy).
Prevention and control of gestational diabetes.
Strengthening of your pelvic diaphragm, located between your pelvis and coccyx. (The area tends to weaken with the loosening of the muscles and the weight of the fetus, which can cause an inability to control your bladder and a light incontinence.)
Better weight control.
A lower risk of post-partum depression.
Precautions to take
Always consult your doctor before taking on a sport to ensure if and how you can go about it safely.
If you suffer from cardiovascular problems, are anemic, or have previously given birth to an underweight baby, be sure that you’re being monitored by your doctor.
If you only begin to exercise upon pregnancy, be sure to opt for light exercises (such as walking or swimming) during your first trimester. If you already lead an active lifestyle, moderate your workout and be on the lookout for any signs from your body (like bleeding or spotting).
At all times, maintain a light to moderate intensity (it’s advised to not surpass 140 beats per minute). This is because pregnancy brings on changes in blood distribution. Also, exercise requires a lot of oxygen and nutrients, which could keep the foetus from getting these precious elements.
What to avoid during exercise
While pregnant, avoid sports…
– during which it is possible to receive hits to the stomach, such as tennis, football and basketball.
– that require fast movements, such as badminton.
– that require a lot of coordination and balance, such as aerobics, so as to avoid any falls. (This does not apply to yoga, as it has more controlled movements.)
– that are practiced under pressure, such as deep-sea diving, or in altitude. (The decrease in oxygen can be harmful to a pregnant woman.)
– that require you to lie down on your back. (After the fourth month of pregnancy, the fetus exerts pressure on the posterior vena cava of the mother-to-be when she’s lying on her back. The vein is essential for circulating blood to the heart, so it’s essential to avoid this position!)
– during a heat wave. (Your body’s core temperature must not exceed 39 degrees Celsius.)
Did you know? Two bodily changes with pregnancy:
Increase in blood volume. During pregnancy, a woman’s blood volume increases, while the number of red blood cells (that transport oxygen) stays the same. They are thus diluted in the plasma (the liquid part of the blood). Result: exhaustion occurs more quickly than when not pregnant, even while exerting the same amount of effort. Secretion of relaxin. This hormone is specific to pregnancy. In anticipation of the expansion of the uterus and the enlargement of the pelvis, it softens and stretches the ligaments. The relaxin also reacts to the venous return: blood has more difficulty getting to the heart and it gathers in the tissues. That’s how swelling occurs more frequently in pregnant women.