ABOUT PRENATAL EXERCISES

Prenatal exercises refer to exercises carried out during pregnancy. Exercising during pregnancy holds tremendous health benefits not only for you as a mother but also for your little bundle of joy. Regular exercise during pregnancy not only improves health but also reduces the risks of excess weight gain, back pain and can also make delivery easier. Exercises can improve heart and health stamina, decrease fatigue and constipation.

Pregnant woman exercising with husband while carrying a bottle of water. Dressed in exercise clothes with green trees in the background.

WHO SHOULD NOT EXERCISE?

While regular physical activity can boost both maternal and fetal health, there are however, some mothers-to-be who should avoid pre natal training, especially strenuous ones. These mothers include those with an underlying medical condition such as asthma, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease or any pregnancy-related complications. If you are suffering from any of these, you should consult your healthcare provider to determine if exercising would put you or your baby at risk.

TYPES OF PRENATAL EXERCISES:

Exercises carried out during pregnancy differ to some extent from day to day exercises, in terms of frequency and type. These exercises are also dependent on how far along in your pregnancy  you are, as a woman in her third trimester is not advised to carry out the same type of exercise as a woman in her first trimester. If you are unsure on whether a type of exercise is suitable for you, always consult your midwife or obstetrician.

Here are six exercises that will keep you fit and healthy during your pregnancy:

1.    Brisk Walking 

2.    Swimming

3.    Stationary Cycling

4.    Yoga

5.    Low impact aerobic

6.    Squatting and pelvic tilts

EXERCISES TO AVOID WHEN PREGNANT:

Prenatal exercises should in no way include strenuous exercise or exercise that exposes the soon to be mother to extreme pressure or strain. Here are a few exercises you shouldn’t be doing as an expectantp mother:

1.    Heavyweight lifting involving maximal isometric muscle contractions.

2.    Contact or high-impact sports.

3.    Altitude sports such as sky diving.

4.    Horseback riding.

5.    Exercises which involve a change in gravity such as tennis, squash.

BENEFITS OF PRENATAL EXERCISES:

Prenatal exercises have many benefits during pregnancy. These benefits include:

1.    It can help shorten the labour process by preparing the muscles for labour and childbirth.

2.    It steadily increases heart rate and blood circulation.

3.    It reduces the risk of hypertension and gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

4.    Prenatal exercises also decrease the likelihood of preterm labour and birth.

5.    These exercises also speed up recovery after delivery.

A GUIDE TO EXERCISING BASED ON TRIMESTER:

Healthy pregnancies usually last 9 months, but can range between 37-42 weeks. The pregnancy period is divided into three trimesters, each trimester lasting between 12- 14 weeks (about 3 months). During each trimester, the fetus undergoes changes, growing gradually until the 9th month; the mother’s body also experiences changes as well. This guide is a step by step guide to exercising as the trimesters advance.

1.    First Trimester: 

During this time as an expectant mother, your body still mostly remains the same physically. As such, you may still be able to exercise as much as you used to. However be aware of what your limits are and keep away from lifting and contact sports. Also, note that you may generally feel more tired and off-peak during this period and overdoing your exercise might make you feel even worse.

2.    Second Trimester: 

By this time, you will be putting on more weight as your pregnancy develops, and as such, there is a need to lessen the intensity of your exercise. Do less strenuous activities and focus on more relaxing ones like yoga or brisk walking.

3.    Third Trimester: 

This is the final stage of your pregnancy. All aerobic sports should be removed from your exercise regime now. The focus should be on relaxing, gentle forms of exercise such as yoga and sensible amounts of walking. 

TIPS TO HEALTHY EXERCISING DURING PREGNANCY:

Women who exercised regularly before becoming pregnant have a much better likelihood of continuing the same exercise routine as before with slight changes as they advance in their trimester. However, women who before their pregnancy had not exercised regularly would be better off starting with a low-intensity program before gradually moving to a higher activity level. As a pregnant woman, the level and scale of exercises you begin with are mainly dependent on whether or not you frequently exercised before your pregnancy. Most activities are safe to perform during pregnancy if they are carried out correctly and with caution. However, as the pregnancy advances, they will have to be reduced in frequency and intensity depending on the trimester. 

Here are a few tips to exercising correctly during  pregnancy:

1.    Always ensure you start off with a warm-up and stretches for about 5 minutes.

2.    In the same way, gradually slow down your exercises, making sure to end with a gentle stretch for about 5-10 minutes.

3.    Wear loose, comfortable clothes and good support clothing that will not be uncomfortable while you exercise.

4.    Avoid exercising for at least an hour after meals and drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise to keep you hydrated.

5.    To prevent dizziness, get up gradually and slowly. 

WHAT TO AVOID WITH EXERCISE DURING PRENATAL EXERCISING.

While exercising during pregnancy it is also essential that you apply caution, keeping in mind that your body needs more oxygen and energy during this period and that the hormone relaxin that is produced in pregnancy can cause the ligaments supporting your joints to spread, increasing the risk of injuries during pregnancy. Hence, these factors, alongside your changing weight, require that you exercise caution. Bear in mind these tips:

1.    When pregnant, avoid exercising and in turn, overheating in high humidity.

2.    Do not involve yourself in strenuous exercises such as heavy weightlifting.

3.    All activities that increase the risk of abdominal trauma should be avoided.

4.    Slow down your exercise rates to ensure you never exercise to the point of exhaustion.

5.    Avoid high altitude exercises that expose you to extreme air pressure.

WHEN TO STOP:

While carrying out prenatal exercises, there are a few red lights that should make you stop and consult your healthcare provider. These red lights include but are not limited to:

•    Muscle cramps.

•    Irregular or rapid heartbeat.

•    Vaginal bleeding.

•    Abdominal or pelvic pain.

•    Dizzy or nauseous feeling.

•    Sudden swelling around body parts.

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