If you weren’t very active before your pregnancy, don’t worry – this is a great time to start. You can build up your activity levels slowly and there are lots of small changes you can make to your lifestyle that will be good for you and your baby.
People may tell you that pregnancy is a good time to put your feet up. If your pregnancy is uncomplicated it is actually much healthier for you and your baby to exercise while pregnant.
Why is exercising during pregnancy good for my baby?
Being active will reduce your likelihood of having pregnancy problems such as high blood pressure or diabetes, which means less risk for your baby.
Women who do weight-bearing exercise (exercise where your feet and legs support your weight, such as walking, some yoga, dancing and so on) during pregnancy can have a shorter labour time with fewer complications.
Why is staying active during pregnancy good for me?
- Being active will help you sleep better at night
- Being active makes you feel good, reduces stress and gives you more energy
- It can reduce levels of anxiety and depression in pregnancy
- If you’re active, it’s easier to manage your weight during pregnancy and lose any extra weight after your baby is born
- You are less likely to suffer from the common aches and pains of pregnancy, such as varicose veins, tiredness or back pain
- Being active helps reduce constipation, which is a common pregnancy problem
- Exercise may help you cope with labour and delivery better
You can exercise during your pregnancy even if you have not been active before. Walking, swimming, pregnancy yoga or aqua-natal classes are good ways to exercise during pregnancy.
Is there any exercises I shouldn’t do now that I’m pregnant?
Try to avoid sports where your bump could be hit, such as football, rugby, hockey and martial arts. Activities where you risk falling, like skiing or horse riding are best avoided too.
What happens if I’m not very active during my pregnancy?
If you are no very active during pregnancy, you're at risk of putting on too much weight.
You are at higher risk of gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and varicose veins. You are more likely to have physical complaints such as shortness of breath and lower back pain.
Things to be aware of:
- Don’t exercise for more than 45 minutes at a time
- Don’t do exercises in which you lie flat on your back after 16 weeks
- Be careful if you are doing exercises where you could lose your balance, such as cycling, horse riding or skiing
- Avoid contact sports where there is a risk of being hit, such as kickboxing, football, judo or squash
- Don’t exercise at high altitudes without acclimatising
- If you have any unusual symptoms, stop exercising and contact your doctor or midwife immediately
- Don’t let yourself get too hot – drink lots of water, don’t over-exercise and don’t exercise in a very hot, humid climate without giving your body a few days to get used to it
If you did not exercise before getting pregnant, it is safe and healthy to start now. Start with 15 minutes of exercise 3 times a week and increase it gradually to 30-minute sessions 4 days a week or every day.
Don’t overexert yourself
Avoid pushing yourself too hard as this can make you overheat, which is not good for your baby. You should aim to work hard enough so that you breathe more deeply and your heart beats faster, but not so hard that you can’t pass the talk test. You should be able to hold a conversation without gasping for breath.
If you’re doing an exercise class or working out in the gym, tell the teacher or gym instructor you’re pregnant and ask their advice about checking your heart rate.
Some women worry about their baby being shaken around while they exercise, but this isn’t the case. Your baby is safe and secure within your womb and may even find the movement relaxing.