While traditionally it's believed that for the full nine months of pregnancy women should be mostly resting, a growing number of professionals agree that mothers who are fit typically manage childbirth easier and have healthier babies.
Many doctors agree that mothers who get regular exercise will have an easier labour and a healthier child. But how much is too much? Image credit: Ben Earwicker.
Doctors are even now encouraging exercise for pregnant mums, within reason. So how do you know how much and what types are right for you?
First and foremost, it is absolutely essential to get the 'all clear' from your doctor about exercise and whether or not it's appropriate for your pregnancy.
The first trimester of pregnancy is the most critical period of the entire nine months. This is because during this time, the unborn child's organ systems first begin to form, and deficiencies in vitamins and minerals can lead to health problems or deformities that last a lifetime. For example, folic acid is import to prevent conditions such as spina bifida.
Make sure you are eating healthy, this is not the time to starve yourself or cut calories. It is however the time to ensure you're eating a balanced diet full of vitamins and minerals. It's important to remember that what you eat serves as a building block for your baby's health. The more nutrients you give your baby, the better off he or she will be, and the more likely to grow into a healthy child.
During your first trimester, you might be feeling nausea and exhaustion, which is very normal. It's also easy at this time to forgo your normal exercise routines. After all, it's hard to get motivated to work out when you struggle to keep breakfast down, but there are tremendous benefits for doing so.
During your first few months, it can be tempting to skip your workouts due to fatigue or nausea. Image credit: Alya87/sxc.hu
Not only will regular exercise reduce various risk factors for pregnancy, but they can also lessen the impact of those side effects mentioned above. If you had a well established exercise routine before your pregnancy, your exercise guidelines will be somewhat different from a woman who is just beginning an exercise program on learning they are pregnant.
If you're accustomed to regular exercise, the intensity of your regular exercise routine should be reduced slightly from what you're used to, but should not be stopped altogether. Women who begin their exercise program once they learn they're pregnant should not focus on cardio based activities or attempt radical differences to their cardiovascular health with an intense program. It's better to work with low intensity activities such as walking, swimming, yoga, etc.
Light intensity activities such as yoga, swimming and walking are all great for expecting mums. Image credit: Istock Australia.
Remember that your baby's heart rate is tied to your own so increasing your heart rate any higher than 140 beats per minute can put strain on your baby's developing heart.
Most important of all though, is this - know when to stop and listen to your body. If you feel strained or over-tired, stop. If you start feeling dizzy, light headed, shortness of breath, unexpected pain, or anything that feels out of the norm, stop immediately as these symptoms could be signs of serious issues. Contact your physician immediately, and don't try to exercise again until you get the okay from your doctor.
For a variety of reasons, exercise, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy, can be beneficial for both you and your baby, with benefits extending several months beyond delivery.
Before you start any exercise routine while pregnant, you are advised to consult with your doctor.