Exercise during and after pregnancy is very important. The time in her life when a woman most needs to be fit is during pregnancy. She may not be entering a race, but childbirth is certainly a time of great physical exertion. A body that is strong and flexible works more efficiently, tires less easily and gets back into shape more quickly afterwards, too. You do not need any special strength or stamina to get through labor, but all stages of pregnancy – before, during and after the birth – pass more easily and safely if you are fit.
A pregnant woman is not ill and should not be treated, or treat herself, as such. In primitive societies, a woman often worked in the fields until her baby was due, took a couple of hours off for the birth, and then returned to work. Although this is certainly not desirable, even in Western society pregnant women are now encouraged to live as normally as possible. If you are a healthy, active person and are used to enjoying a particular sport, carry on with it for as long as you can without straining yourself, obviously avoiding very strenuous sports such as squash or potentially hazardous ones like skating, where a hard fall could be dangerous. If in doubt, consult your doctor.
Exercise During and After Pregnancy: Walking and Swimming
Walking and swimming are ideal exercise during and after pregnancy. Gentle jogging, running, bicycling or tennis is also good, but modify your exercise by taking them more easily. You won’t have the same stamina as before you were pregnant, so do not expect to achieve as much. Remember that your body is already expending a great deal of energy building and maintaining the baby. Don’t push yourself beyond what is comfortable, you are bound to get out of breath and tire more quickly, and always rest afterwards. Don’t take up a sport if you are not used to it. That would be foolish. If you want to start to exercise, keep to walking but don’t overdo it.
Your posture and breathing need special attention during pregnancy. Here are a few exercises which will help you to strengthen certain muscles, give you the knowledge and control which are so vital during child-birth, and ensure that you regain your figure quickly afterwards. Practice them regularly during pregnancy and immediately after the birth. After six weeks, you can start on the daily exercise routine.
Exercise During and After Pregnancy: Posture
Stand and sit as straight and tall as you can. When sitting, make sure your back is supported and if you can put your feet up so much the better. While you have your feet up, bend and stretch your ankles and circle your feet in both directions several times. Standing, keep your weight evenly distributed on your feet: don’t lean forwards on to the balls of your feet or sway back on to your heels, a particular temptation as pregnancy advances and your balance changes. Remember that strong abdominal muscles mean strong backs, so tuck your bottom in and make your tummy muscles do the work of supporting the extra weight.
Exercise During and After Pregnancy: Breathing
Good deep breathing and control of your breathing are invaluable during childbirth. It is, in fact, the most important exercise during and after pregnancy. Breathing exercises will help to increase your lung capacity and control and will also improve your circulation. Breathe in slowly and deeply until your lungs are full and you feel pressure on your diaphragm. Let the breath out slowly form the diaphragm. It will be best if you practice ‘Pranayama’, a form of Yoga, during and after pregnancy.
Exercise During and After Pregnancy: Breasts
You may put on as much as 31 lb. (1.3 kg) in extra weight in your breasts during pregnancy. Exercise to strengthen the pectoral muscles help to give your breasts support. The most popular and easiest exercise to provide firmness to the breasts is to perform push-ups, which strengthen the pectoral muscles that are under the breasts. In general, it will help shape the breast and reduce excess fat deposits around it.
Lifting weights also helps strengthen the pectoral muscles. There are many variations and any one that makes you feel that the chest muscles are working is valid.
Exercise During and After Pregnancy: Abdomen
Strong abdominal and pelvic floor muscles make for an easier delivery, so pay special attention to abdomen exercise during and after pregnancy. Abdominal muscles also need strengthening during pregnancy to support the baby, preventing backache, and to help you to regain your figure more easily after the birth. Lie on your back with knees bent and hands by your sides. Tighten muscles in buttocks and abdomen until waist and small of the back press flat on to the floor and bottom of spine lifts. Hold for a count of five, and then slowly relax to original position.
Exercise During and After Pregnancy: Pelvic Floor
The weight of the body pressing on the pelvic floor can put the muscles here under great strain and weaken them. Luckily, pelvic floor strengthening exercises are the sort you can do at any time, lying down, sitting up, waiting at traffic lights, or in the bath. However, first of all, it takes some practice to isolate the muscles of the urinary tract, vagina and rectum, all of which need strengthening. Try stopping the flow of urine in the middle of passing water, close your vaginal muscles around an imaginary penis, and clench rectal muscles as though trying to stop a motion. When you recognize the three sets of muscles, tighten first the urinary sphincter, then the vagina, and then the rectal muscles, hold all together for a count of then, then relax and repeat. Does this as often as you can.
We hope that with all these tips you are willing to enjoy a healthy exercise during and after pregnancy, beneficial for both the future mother and the baby. Soon we will come back with more tips to make this stage healthier and happy, talking about when you can start exercising during pregnancy.