Having always been health and fitness conscious, Aashima didn’t want to completelystop exercising during her pregnancy, neither did she want to put herself or her foetus at risk. Unsure about what to do, she decided to check with her doctor, who told her that moderate exercise was alright during pregnancy.
Exercising during pregnancy
“A woman can exercise throughout pregnancy, right up to labour. But before starting on any regimen, it is necessary to take a clearance from your obstetrician. In early pregnancy, the safest and simplest option is walking,” says gynaecologist Dr Suman Bijlani.
Adds Dr Parul R Sheth, a health consultant specializing in reproductive biology, “Pregnancy is a good time to get active. Exercise can help you prepare for delivery and keep you in shape post delivery. You can include low-impact exercises throughout your pregnancy. Avoid bouncing, leaping or running during the last three months.”
What to do
Walking, swimming, aerobics, Pilates, yoga, Kegel exercises, etc., are safe. Talk to your doctor about the type of exercises, depending upon your health status.
Start slow and gradually increase your workout. Avoid sudden unaccustomed exercise and those exercises which require you to lie down on your back after the fifth month.
Always keep yourself well-hydrated. Keep a water bottle handy so that you can sip on water in between exercising.
What to avoid
Avoid high-impact exercises like jumping, hopping, bouncing, horse riding, skiing, contactsports such as football, basketball, volleyball or gymnastics and avoid overstretching.
Avoid exercises, which involve balancing, such as cycling, aerobics, ballet, especially in later pregnancy.
Don’t push yourself; listen to your body. Don’t reach a point where you become so breathless that you cannot speak.
Over-exercising harms the foetus
Says Dr Bijlani, “What one means by over-exercising could vary. It could mean unaccustomed exercise, inappropriate exercise, not following the rules, unsupervised exercise without the permission of the obstetrician. Over-exercising, especially rigorous sessions can cause dehydration and reduce blood sugar levels. Over-exercising without proper precautions on a regular basis could lead to smaller or premature babies in some cases.”
Adds Dr Sheth, “Over-exercising or high-impact exercises can cause increased pressure in the womb leading to premature labour or bleeding. Pushing your body too hard can put your baby at risk. For instance, strenuous exercises can raise your body’s temperature and this can then be harmful to the baby especially in the first trimester when your baby is in the developing stage. Also, if you are out of breath while exercising, your baby may not get enough oxygen.”
How much is too much?
The topic of exercising during pregnancy was in the news recently after an international report brought to focus a case of a Los Angeles-based fitness enthusiast, who worked out and lifted weights till just before her due date. “I believe that in this case, it is not as much a matter of ‘lifting weights’ as it is about doing something that her body is used to. While it is fine for her, it is obvious not appropriate for other women. Besides, heavy weight-lifting, which increases pressure on the abdomen, is not appropriate for a ‘weak cervix’ or certain pregnancy conditions, which may predispose to premature rupture of membranes,” says Dr Bijlani.
Adds Dr Sheth, “If you have been doing intense exercise before you got pregnant, then you may be able to continue the same as long as your doctor says it is safe for you and your baby.”