When my sister was carrying my nephew, all she did was look in the mirror and complain at the amount of weight she was putting on. Although she did go for walks in the evenings, her efforts were half-hearted as she was afraid of over-doing the exercise routine. She thought it might harm the baby. After consulting her gynaecologist, she decided to be more serious, at least about her walks.
There are thousands of pregnant women who feel the same – scared of exercising just in case things get complicated. All you have to do is consult your gynaecologist before beginning any exercise regimen. And it’s a fact that keeping fit has its own rewards.
The remarkable physical changes that pregnancy brings about can make you feel you’re losing control of your body. Not only are you bigger, but your sense of balance shifts. Exercising can give you back that control.
Exercising during pregnancy strengthens and tones muscles, helps the body work more efficiently and relieves aches and pains. Some women feel that aerobic exercises during pregnancy actually decreases labour time. And women who exercise during pregnancy usually regain their shape more easily after childbirth.
Pregnant women who have heart problems, high blood pressure, diabetes or circulatory disorders, need an individually designed programme. If you have a high-risk condition, your doctor may refer you to an obstetric physical therapist who will develop an exercise programme for you.
Choose the Right Exercise
Dr Geeta Baruah Nath, Pitara’s consultant gynaecologist, suggests that if you haven’t been doing aerobic exercises regularly, a programme of stretching and toning is a good way to start and can continue after your baby is born.
You can start an aerobic exercise programme after the first trimester. The safest aerobic activities are walking and swimming. A yoga class is fine but only if a qualified instructor leads it. And again some asanas maybe avoided in yoga too.
Plan your Exercise Regimen
Start your walks/ swimming slowly, and build up gradually.
Breathe as normally as possible while exercising. If you feel short of breath, stop or decrease the intensity or length of your workout.
Don’t become overheated. You shouldn’t exercise so intensely that you couldn’t carry on a conversation.
Drink plenty of water.
Listen to your body. Pain or fatigue is a sign to slow down or stop. Never strain.
Contact your doctor if any of the following occurs: bleeding or leaking of fluid from the vagina, dizziness, excessive shortness of breath, substantial rise in heart rate, contractions that last several hours after exercise, feeling faint, having difficulty walking.
Get into the Exercise Habit
Set aside a time and place that fits your schedule.
Exercise on a padded carpet or a mat.
Be sure you have a room to move about freely.
Wear loose clothing or a leotard. A supportive bra can make exercise more comfortable.
You can begin exercising after six weeks of normal childbirth. But if you’ve had a caesarean section or any other complication, check with your doctor first.
Activities that you should avoid include contact sports such as football, basketball, volleyball and baseball. Accidents sometimes happen during these games, and you want to protect yourself from injuries, particularly to the abdominal area. Also risky are tennis, racquetball, ice-skating, surfing, and diving, gymnastics and adventure sports such as parachuting, mountain climbing and scuba diving. Avoid bouncy or jerky movements. Exercising to music can be fun, but slow down a beat. Your joints are looser during pregnancy, which can make injuries more likely.