Exercising during and after pregnancy
Having a baby usually means you’ll be paying closer attention to your health overall and this goes beyond just what you eat – it extends to your physical fitness too. Even though your body will go through changes during this time, there’s still plenty you can do to stay fit.
Read our guide below to find out everything you need to know about exercising while expecting.
Exercising during pregnancy is perfectly safe
Generally, exercising while pregnant is perfectly safe, though you may need to reduce the intensity of what you’re doing as your baby grows. Always speak to your doctor or midwife before undertaking any pre or post-natal exercise, as every situation is different. It’s also best to not suddenly increase the intensity or frequency of your exercise – work your way up slowly if you’d like to do more. The NHS also recommends not laying on your back after 16 weeks and avoiding any contact sports to avoid any risk to you or your baby.
It can help with some common health complaints
Exercise can help to alleviate some common problems associated with pregnancy. You might be surprised to hear that it can actually help you to feel less tired, and can also help to improve your sleep. The mood-boosting properties of exercise can be especially beneficial during pregnancy and there’s also evidence to suggest that regular exercise can help to prevent more serious conditions such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure – as well as complications during labour.
The best types of exercise for pregnant women
To reap the full benefits, you should aim for around 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. Don’t worry if that’s an unrealistic target for you: even doing small, regular amounts will be beneficial to your overall health and even a brisk walk will count! Opt for non-contact sports, and avoid anything with a risk of falling, which could harm your baby (for example, cycling). As you get bigger, swimming may be a good option, as the water will help to support your weight. It’s a good idea to take pregnancy-specific classes as these will ensure the right level of intensity and that you’ll be in safe hands.
Taking care when exercising while pregnant
You’ll need to pay special attention to not getting too dehydrated as your body temperature may increase more than usual during exercise, and take particular care of your joints too: hormones released during pregnancy make your ligaments and tendons more elastic and this will mean your joints are less supported. If you start to feel dizzy or faint, have any difficulty breathing or get any pain or swelling in your calf at any point during exercise, stop immediately and see your health practitioner as soon as possible.
Bouncing back after your baby is born
How soon you start to exercise again after your baby is born will depend on both how the birth went and how much you feel like doing. If you had a normal birth without complications, you can start doing gentle exercise (such as walking and stretching) right away, but it’s generally recommended that you wait until your 6-week post-natal check-up before doing anything more strenuous. Exercise has been shown to help with post-natal depression, so building it back into your routine will support both your mental and physical health.
Building up momentum again
Once you’ve started to settle into life as a parent, you can start building exercise back into your routine. The biggest thing to remember is to keep exercise regular, and remember that even small amounts add up: you can go walking right away with baby in tow. After a while, you could even commit to a small race event to give you something to aim towards. Small goals may help you to get back on track and build up to larger and more ambitious fitness goals once you have settled.