Tuesday, 8 April 2008

What exercises can I do during pregnancy?

Unless you've been advised by your doctor not to exercise for a particular reason, keeping fit and healthy during pregnancy is important for your wellbeing and that of your baby, says UrBod Nutritionist Melody Mackeown, who specialises in pre-conceptual care, fertility and pregnancy. Incredibly recent research has indicated that exercise during pregnancy can benefit your unborn baby’s cardiovascular system (i.e you are improving your child’s heart health in utero!). It also means that your body may be more prepared for the physical demands of labour, birth, and those early days with your newborn.

Walking can be a great way of getting exercise and fresh air during pregnancy. Swimming is often recommended by doctors and midwives, as the water supports your weight whilst helping your back and giving your heart, lungs and muscles a gentle workout. Ask your midwife about local aqua-natal classes, specifically offering exercise in water for pregnant women.

You should also take care to look after your back during pregnancy, as (particularly during the latter stages) it starts to take the strain of your growing baby. Good posture will improve the tone of your muscles and avoid hollowing of your spine, which leads to aching in your lower back.
It's a good idea to get the weight off your spine by lying down during rest periods, and also by periodically moving onto all fours and arching your back from time to time (like a cat). Learn how to get up correctly from a lying down position, without putting pressure on your stomach muscles. Roll over to one side, draw your knees upwards, and push yourself up gently with your arms whilst swinging your legs around to sit up. Use your legs, not your back, when lifting anything. Seeing an osteopath or chiropractor can also help or correct bad posture, says UrBod Nutritionist Melody Mackeown.

Many women enjoy pregnancy yoga classes. These provide specific exercises during pregnancy to tone muscles, alleviate aches and pains commonly found during pregnancy, and above all to encourage a sense of relaxation and wellbeing. They also include pelvic floor exercises, which are important both during pregnancy and in the weeks following the birth. Pelvic floor muscles support everything inside the pelvic cavity (such as the uterus, the bladder and rectum) and are like a hammock slung in your pelvis. Awareness of these muscles is important during labour as the baby is travelling down the birth canal. Pelvic floor exercises help you to control these muscles, basically as if holding a stream of urine and pulling the muscles upwards before releasing them. Your midwife and/or antenatal teacher will be able to give you a full set of these exercises, if you are not taking yoga classes.

Exercise in pregnancy can be of great benefit. It not only helps your fitness but also gives you an opportunity to concentrate on yourself and your growing baby. Start gently at first, your body will tell you if you have overdone it, and enjoy looking after yourself. Consider getting a personal trainer who specialises in pre and post natal exercise – a good website is http://www.absolutefitness.co.uk/. Two other useful websites regarding exercise include: http://www.lifestylexperts.com/ and http://www.newbornfitness.co.uk/ which supply pregnancy exercise balls/birthing balls.

Eating well can also help to keep you fit and I have written a free e-book on how you can improve your diet during your pregnancy, which can be obtained by clicking on my link. To find out more about Nutritional support during or before your pregnancy, contact UrBod Nutritionist Melody Mackeown Dip.ION (mBANT), specialist in pre-conceptual care, fertility and pregnancy care in the city of London, EC2.