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Pregnancy Bliss | Reproductive Health Hub

Benefits Unsafe exercises Effect on labour Specific sports Post-delivery

The benefits of exercise in pregnancy

Is exercise good for a pregnant woman?

There is no doubt that a pregnant woman who exercises regularly accrues significant psychological benefits from the activity. All other things being equal, she will be more relaxed, more energetic and feel good about herself, more so than her sedentary counterpart.

Are there any physical benefits?

Yes. There is reduction in things such as bloatedness, backache, fatigue and headache - all common problems in pregnancy.

Women who exercise have also reported significant reduction in shortness of breath and constipation.

Does exercise have any benefit regarding weight gain in pregnancy?

One has to be careful here. Weight gain in pregnancy is no bad thing and one should never set out to try to prevent this. However, several things account for the weight gained. These include the growing uterus and its contents; increase in the blood volume; retained water (an effect caused by the progesterone hormone) and fat - usually on the abdominal wall and thighs.

Most of this weight requires little or no effort to get rid of after delivery. The exception is the deposited fat. Exercise in pregnancy, even in moderation, limits the amount - of fat deposited under the skin. This, in turn, reduces the effort required after delivery to shift this weight.

Are there any risks associated with exercising during pregnancy?

Yes. That is why it is important that only the appropriate types of exercise are carried out. The progesterone hormone softens the ligaments that hold the various joints together and keep them stable.

The softening effect will therefore make the joints somewhat unstable. The wrong kind of exercise could quite plausibly lead to injury of some of these joints, such as those in the spine, the pelvis, knees and ankles.

So what sort of exercises are ideal for a pregnant woman?

We would not attempt to give an ideal exercise program here. It is important that such a program is individualised,Exercises in pregnancy should be safe according to the woman's state of health, the existing level of activity and what she enjoys doing. It is important that an expert is involved in formulating such a program and all maternity units will have such people available, if and when needed.

If a woman has been exercising regularly pre­conception, what should she do?

She should ideally carry on. However, before doing that she should seek advice regarding the type of exercise she should and should not do.

Any programme of exercise  in pregnancy should observe some or all of the following:

A warm-up period lasting several minutes, an exercise session of fifteen to thirty minutes, then a slowing down period, again lasting several minutes, before stopping. She should avoid sudden physical exertion as well as sudden stopping.

Adequate fluid as well as calorie intake.

The correct kind of sportswear, including comfortable sports shoes, clothes and a purpose-built support bra. The clothes should preferably be loose-fitting comfortable ones.

If a device to continually monitor the pulse rate is available, she should aim- to keep the rate below 140 per minute. If the rate creeps above this, it is time to wind down.

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