Pregnancy is a marathon and not a sprint. This is so true, as your body is adapting to the growing weight of your baby, physical, chemical and emotional changes, never has there been a more important time to maintain and improve your activity levels. Put it this way unless, you keep on top of it you will begin to lose fitness at a rapid rate and by the time it comes to giving birth, it can greatly impact on the experience you have. We have helped many women to prepare for pregnancy, labour and childbirth and then onto recovery and rehabilitation afterwards. In many cases we’ve helped to prepare for further pregnancies if desired. Quite often there is conflicting information given to expectant mums regarding levels of activity. Some women are suddenly told they need to rest and do nothing, while others simply carry on as normal. This can be very confusing as to what you should actually do at a time where you are concerned to look after your growing baby.
I have lost count of the number of times I have heard people say things like; “you need to be careful in your condition!” or “You don’t want to be doing that” whilst pregnant. Those comments would always frustrate me, after all pregnancy is not a disease, it’s a healthy process. It’s a process that we have to nurture, and support, after all you can’t prepare for a marathon by taking it easy.
So what level of activity should you be doing? Well we completely understand that all pregnancies are unique, each expectant mum is making their health choices based on their individual circumstances and life experiences. Initially, we would always advise to stick with the basics initially, don’t suddenly start something crazy that you wouldn’t usually do.
Current recommendations for exercise in pregnancy are less restrictive than in the past and reflect the conclusion that moderate levels of physical activity by healthy, well-nourished women pose no special risk to pregnancy. Pregnant women should exercise moderately, or at 50 to 60 percent of maximal heart rate for twenty to thirty minutes three times per week. Maximal Heart Rate, or MHR, represents your maximal oxygen utilization level, or VO2 max. Maximal heart rate represents the highest number of times your heart can beat per minute during periods of highly intense exercise. Brief bouts of exercise at 70 percent of MHR are considered okay. You can estimate your MHR from your age: 100 percent of MHR is estimated as 220 minus a person’s age. (This formula may be somewhat undependable for pregnant women, who tend to have a higher heart rate than non pregnant women.)
Exercise that results in a heart rate of 95 beats per minute would approximately equal 50 percent of MHR. To see if you are exercising at this level, you need to take your pulse and determine how many times your heart beats within a minute.
Recommendations for Exercise in Pregnancy
- Do exercise moderately and regularly unless otherwise advised by your health care provider.
- Do emphasize non-weight bearing activities and those that don’t require a keen sense of balance.
- Do wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing that allows heat to escape and moisture to evaporate.
- Do drink plenty of water during exercise; eat appropriately.
- Do consume a healthy diet and gain weight as recommended.
- Do exercise at 50 to 60 percent of maximal heart rate (or VO2 max)
- Don’t exercise or perform physical work to exhaustion. Quit when you feel tired.
- Don’t exercise while lying on your back in the second and third trimester.
- Don’t exercise in hot, humid conditions.
- Don’t perform activities that may traumatize the abdomen or uterus or cause you to lose your balance.
- Don’t fast or exercise while you are hungry