Nobody would argue that exercise and nutrition play an important role in our general health and wellness. So why is it that many women stop exercise in pregnancy? Is it because they fear that it may harm the baby or cause miscarriage? Or is it because their doctor advises against it – particularly in the first trimester? There are many reasons why following a safe exercise programme can play a big part in having a healthy pregnancy. Here are 9 of the many Health Benefits of Prenatal Exercise.
Reduce and Ease Backache
Lower back pain is one of the most common complaints in pregnancy and can lead to discomfort that is so severe that carrying out simple tasks such as walking around the supermarket or standing for any amount of time become distressing activities. Backache is caused when the ligaments relax and the joints loosen as a result of the pregnancy hormone relaxin. The same hormone also causes the ligaments around the spine to loosen leading to instability and pain. Exercise to strengthen core muscles and address your changing posture can lead to a significant reduction in pain and discomfort.
Manage Weight Gain
It goes without saying that exercise and healthy nutrition will help you to avoid excessive weight gain. Women who maintain a healthy weight gain have fewer pregnancy complications and lose weight more easily following the birth of their baby.
Reduce Stress and Improve Mood
Exercise releases the body’s natural happy hormone called endorphin. It is natural to feel stressed during pregnancy because your body is changing, the impact on your normal routine and family life so if you exercise you can take advantage of endorphins released and lift your mood and reduce your stress levels.
It is really important to get plenty of sleep as this will help with the growth of the baby and your overall well-being. As your pregnancy advances it can become increasingly difficult to get comfortable in bed and this can affect the quality and quantity of sleep. Exercising regularly during pregnancy will improve your sleep by maximising your energy output, working your muscles and clearing your mind, all of which will promote a peaceful night’s sleep.
Reduce Risk or Manage Gestational Diabetes
Gestational Diabetes is caused by reduced insulin sensitivity which results in an increase in blood sugar levels in the body. Gestational diabetes can lead to serious complications during pregnancy, labour and delivery. There is a lot of evidence to show that exercising regularly improves blood sugar control and reduces the need to maintain normal blood sugar levels with medication. Studies have also shown that baby’s of mums who exercised regularly during pregnancy had improved insulin sensitivity into adulthood and less incidence of obesity.
Reduces Constipation, Water Retention and Swollen Ankles
Again uncomfortable and irritating effects of pregnancy and extremely common, which can be caused by a rising blood pressure. If unmanaged this can lead to serious complications such as pregnancy induced hypertension (high blood pressure) and pre-eclampsia. Regular safe aerobic exercise can help to regulate blood pressure as well as exercising joints and reducing discomfort.
Improve Stamina and Strength and Prepare you for Labour
It is generally said that an average labour uses the same amount of energy as running a marathon. Most people wouldn’t consider running a marathon without undergoing months of training for the big day. So, it goes without saying that “training” for labour and delivery will significantly improve your experience and possibly even reduce the length of labour. Training your core muscles, posterior chain (legs and back) as well as regular aerobic exercise for cardiac health will significantly affect your energy and strength and ability to cope with the demands on your body during labour and delivery.
Increase Chances of a Natural Birth
The position your baby is lying in when you go into labour can have a significant impact on the length of labour, pain experienced and type of birth. For example, babies lying in the posterior position (baby’s back adjacent to your back) will result in a longer labour and a potentially obstructed labour leading to an increased risk of forceps delivery or caesarean section. Exercising and remaining upright and mobile encourages the baby to adopt an anterior position which is the optimum position for the baby during labour.
Quicker Recovery and Longer-Term Benefits
Whether you have a natural birth or your baby is born by caesarean section, being fit and healthy will help your body to recover more quickly. In addition to aiding physical recovery, exercise boosts your immune system which means that you’ll have additional protection from infection and any incisions will heal quicker. And the final icing on the cake is that many studies have shown that babies born to healthy mums are healthier and more intelligent!
There are many more reasons why exercising in pregnancy is so beneficial to you and your baby – hopefully you are now convinced!