In the past, women have been urged to cease exercising whilst pregnant with the thought that it may induce a premature labour. However in more modern times studies have shown that this is certainly untrue. In fact, a study done by over 2000 women in America, showed that women who did not exercise whilst pregnant were more likely to give birth to low birth weight infants (who would have a much weaker immune system).
There are examples of female athletes training right up to the day of labour, however this would seem a little extreme. For a general guideline, cardiovascular exercise is recommended. This should be performed at a lower intensity than you may usually train at. Some studies have shown that a moderate intensity of no more than 40 – 45 minutes, with a maximum heart rate of 145 should be perfectly safe for mother and baby to train at. If you train at a higher intensity or to exhaustion, it has been suggested that the increase in body temperature could cause the blood flow, glucose supply and oxygen delivery to be decreased to the foetus.
With regards to weights or resistance training, caution and control are definitely needed. During the first trimester, resistance training should be ok to continue with as per your normal routine. As the pregnancy continues, the repetitions should be increased and the weights decreased. Slow and controlled movements should be performed because of the relaxin hormone release which loosens connective tissue during pregnancy. Faster movements increase the risk of injury.
It is important to work on core muscles that will help support the body during and after the pregnancy. Classes such as Pilates, or Personal Training sessions have been recommended to people, but it is important that the instructor has the knowledge and understanding of your physical condition.
ACSM also lists several reasons to discontinue exercise and seek medical advice during pregnancy:
Any signs of bloody discharge from the vagina.
Any "gush" of fluid from the vagina (premature rupture of membranes).
Sudden swelling of the ankles, face, or hands.
Persistent, severe headaches and/or visual disturbance; unexplained spell of faintness or dizziness.
Swelling, pain, and redness in the calf of one leg (phlebitis).
Elevation of pulse rate or blood pressure that persists after exercise.
Excessive fatigue, palpitations, chest pain.
Persistent contractions (>6 to 8/hour) that may suggest onset of premature labour.
Unexplained abdominal pain.
Insufficient weight gain (<1.0 kg/month) during the last two trimesters.
Providing there are no contradictions and the doctor has given the all clear, then generally you can start light cardiovascular and resistance training 6 weeks after giving birth. Core or postural exercise are very important and can be performed during this period to help the body return to its natural shape and posture.
At ActivZone Gym we are fully qualified in exercise prescription for pre and post natal women. If you would like more information please contact us 01483 448666 or via our website www.activzone.co.uk