Every pregnancy is different for every woman. Some women feel well and fit throughout their entire pregnancy, others not so much. Every pregnant woman can benefit from being as active as their body allows.
Pregnancy is a time when your body changes rapidly both physically and hormonally. Recent studies suggest it is best to limit weight gain to about +/- 12 kg, depending on your BMI before pregnancy. A big benefit to gentle exercise during pregnancy is simply burning up calories. A lesser known benefit is that the stimulation of “happiness hormones” (endorphins and oxytocin among women exercising in a group) will help even out imbalanced hormones which can cause overeating. Any form of gentle aerobic exercise will help: going for a walk, swimming – even housework!
Many exercise programmes designed for pregnant women also are careful to include breathing and relaxing exercises which promote an emotional equanimity and centeredness. This allows for a better quality of sleep, as many pregnant women suffer from sleep disturbances. It is best for mother and baby to keep calm during the pregnancy, and there is nothing better than a great guided relaxation for calming and refreshing the mother! Increased oxygen intake from breathing exercises provides a natural boost of energy to the mother and aids in the baby’s growth and development.
Then there is the question of the birth. Pregnancy gym, aqua aerobics and pregnancy yoga classes focus on strengthening the muscles needed in labour and delivery, ideally shortening the time labouring and pushing. There is also a decided focus on safe stretching, that is, easing the aches and pains of pregnancy (such as lower back pain and carpel tunnel syndrome) while avoiding the possibility of overstretching brought about by the hormone relaxin.
According to the Mayo clinic, studies have shown gentle programmes such as pregnancy yoga reduce the risk of pre-term labour and intrauterine growth restriction — a condition that slows a baby’s growth, it also lowers blood pressure.
Continued exercising during pregnancy, or even making a good start, can help prevent common symptoms like back pain, nausea, high blood pressure and weight gain. You can be stronger to allow a smoother labour, be more relaxed and benefit the baby’s development.
Contributor: Lorien Mate-Roback