Exercising during pregnancy is something I feel very strongly about. Most women will find some benefit from exercising whether it is physically, emotionally or both. A twenty minute walk, a spin, Pilates or yoga class; whatever it is that motivates you, anything is better than nothing. Every women and every pregnancy is unique but with the right guidance you can find some sort of physical activity to help you gain the benefits.
For me personally, exercise gave me back some control. When you fall pregnant you give your body over to your baby. For the next nine months everything you do can impact the baby. Before making any decision you will be thinking, ‘does this affect my baby’? I enjoyed pregnancy but I also liked being able to exercise my body. Exercise was my medicine. It made me feel like me, Jade for a short while and not just another pregnant woman. Your body is changing; there is no denying that but being able to manage that change can empower you.
There are many ways in which exercise can help you during your pregnancy. Just by being active and leading a healthy lifestyle can lift you both physically and mentally. It is a great way to reduce or even eliminate pregnancy related pain.
When you exercise, you release hormones that make you feel good. Any woman that has been through pregnancy will tell you it’s an emotional time and although you may be thrilled to be pregnant, there will be days when it’s all too much. This is down to all the hormones flying around your body and exercise can help level you and feel good about yourself.
Tiredness……..it can be overwhelming how tired you can get. Exercise can help counteract it; exercise can invigorate and energise you.
During pregnancy you will gain weight - this is unavoidable. You are growing a tiny human in your body, BUT it is only a tiny human, not a fully grown replica of you. You are not eating for two. Managing your food intake, eating healthy nutrient rich foods is essential. In fact during the different trimesters you only need as much as 450 extra calories (3rd trimester) and less for the earlier ones. This is not a lot of food, so just be aware of what you are putting in.
The increased weight adds physical stress to the body and the demand on your muscles and joints is increased with the increased load. By exercising and staying strong this will help your body to cope with the increased demands placed upon it and also help to manage the weight gain throughout the pregnancy.
Another reason you need to be strong is your ligaments are less supportive during pregnancy due to the hormones. Ligaments need to become stretchy to allow for the changes in the body and for child birth but this can also lead to increased pain and excessive movement. By keeping your muscles strong you give your body, in particular your lower back and pelvis the support it needs during these tough times.
And then at the end of it, there’s labour. Probably one of the hardest endurance events you might do in your life. Being in the best physical shape you can be will only enhance your whole experience and help you to deal with the physical demands of child birth.
Needless to say I am a massive ADVOCATE for exercise and pregnancy. I have had three very happy and healthy pregnancy’s ending in one birth centre and two home births. I’m not saying all of that is because I exercised during pregnancy but I’m sure it only helped and my recovery postnatally was quick and without complication.
Written by Jade Rodham, our woman's health physiotherapist at Chiswick Physio. To hear more about the benefits of exercise please inquire on firstname.lastname@example.org or look out on our Facebook page for one of Jade's regular free talks.