During pregnancy exercising is definitely something I would recommend to all mommy’s to be, BUT don’t ignore the warning signs that you are busy over doing your workout and putting yourself and the baby in danger.
Exercise helps to keep you energised, fit, supple and in good shape for the birth of your little one. It is not only good for you but good for baby too. It is important to realise that even though your body is not “weak” because of your pregnancy, the demands on your body have certainly changed a bit and need to be considered especially as the demands increase over the next couple of months. The very first thing you should be doing and I always recommend this, is to check with your doctor during your fist scan what you can and can’t do. When you get the go ahead from your practitioner you can go start (but also listen to your body and keep an eye on the warning signs)
Signs that you should stop training include:
- Feeling of weakness and over-exhausted – The 9 months during pregnancy is definitely not the time to start training for the Iron Man. If you feel tired to the point of exhaustion or if your muscles are pushed to the limits then it is time to call it a day. You don’t have to impress anyone by trying to train the way you did before falling pregnant.
- Feeling of dizziness or blurred vision – When you get to this stage you have already exceeded your capacity and should immediately stop. This goes for when you are pregnant as well as not pregnant. Your body has a couple of warning signs and dizziness is one that tries to force you to stop what you are doing.
- Headaches – If you are training and from training you are developing a headache you should also tone it down and stop for the day. This is also a body-warning-sign you should never ignore.
- You feel nauseous – Nausea usually comes if you ignore all of the above. If I get nauseous I cannot do anything, let alone train. If you experience this, stop.
- Chest pains – If you have chest pains, pain radiating over your shoulder to the back in line with the chest, or a feeling of tightness in your chest is a massive warning sign to stop exercising right away.
- Heart Rate – Your body and heart does work a little bit harder during this time. I suggest you always wear a heart rate monitor so you can just keep an eye on your ticker. Finding ideal heart rate is no easy task as everyone’s fitness levels are different but the general rule of thumb is that you should still be able to talk during a walk without gasping for air. That would put you in about 120bpm zone.
- Hot flushes and feeling really warm – Heat is something generated during pregnancy and is a very normal phenomenon when you exercise, but you must always try and avoid feeling excessively hot to a point where you are overheating during pregnancy. This could affect your baby’s development negatively: Overheating in early pregnancy has been associated with an increased incidence of neural tube defects such as spina bifida, and with low birth weight in later pregnancy. Immediately when you begin to feel HOT, you should remove a layer to feel comfortable again and help prevent over-heating, if this does not work you need to reduce the intensity of the exercise sufficiently for you to be able to cool down quickly again, or take a break until you have cooled down and drink some ice cold water to bring down your temperature.
- Shortness of breath – In pregnancy, especially late in second/third trimester, your body needs to make space for the growing baby. This can sometimes be by taking up some of the space your lungs would normally use to expand. It is normal to be a little bit more “out of breath than normal”. Being short of breath during exercise however, is more reliable indicator than your heart-rate that you are over-exerting yourself. If you reach the point of breathlessness then neither you or your baby will be getting enough oxygen. If you find you don’t are gasping for air, scale back the intensity of the exercise immediately and if it continues stop right away and take a breather.
- Contractions or vaginal bleeding – This is really a no brainer but if you experience uterine contractions or vaginal bleeding during or after exercising you should stop the exercise immediately and consult your doctor before continuing with your exercise programme. If this happens it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will have to give up training for the rest of your pregnancy, but you definitely need professional advice about what level of exercise is suitable for you.
The first trimester was a tricky one for me. I felt tired most of the time and also nauseous. No two women are the same but if you feel like I did it will be a bit harder to find the motivation to train. Others can carry on as normal and during your first trimester you don’t have to make so many changes in your exercise program.
Women who are frequent exercisers may find that they can continue pretty much as normal in the first trimester, albeit foregoing exercise with a high risk of contact or falling, for obvious reasons. However, the first trimester can, even from the first weeks of pregnancy, be a surprising drain on your system as hormones fly and the most crucial developmental work gets underway. Even the fittest of mums-to-be may find that they simply don’t feel up to anything other than very gentle exercise at this stage, or that they become breathless remarkably quickly. If this happens to you then just adjust and go with the flow, the most important use of your energy right now is making that baby.
The “fun” really starts in the second trimester as you get your energy back. Here you will likely begin to put on weight, which will affect what exercise you find comfortable – much will depend on how quickly, and how, you put on weight, as well as on your general fitness level. I recommend that by the third trimester you should to stick to low-impact exercise. Walking, pregnancy yoga and swimming, are great and low impact on your joints which should be taking a bit of strain by now. It is important that whatever kind of exercise you decide to do, to keep above signs in the back of your mind so that that you can make sure you adjust your exercise accordingly and that you are not pushing yourself to hard.
Pointers for exercising safely in pregnancy
- Remember if you are feeling thirsty you are already dehydrated. Always drink enough water before during and after exercises. Take a bottle everywhere you go and drink during the day.
- Early mornings and evening training when its cooler is best suitable times to train. Don’t go running in the midday sun. Avoid rash heat and humid conditions.
- Avoid exercising at very high altitude.
- Don’t overstretch. It is very important to warm up your muscles before exercise, but it is also important that during pregnancy you become more flexible as your body changes for the growing uterus and in preparation for childbirth and you also have a hormone called relaxin released in your body so all your joints are extra flexible.
- Wear layers of breathable clothing that you can adjust to prevent yourself overheating.
- Avoid action sports and any other sport where there are obstacles for falling.
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xxx Brigitte xxx