Exercise and Pregnancy

This is often a controversial topic as many people, often the older generation, may be concerned that you are going to harm the unborn baby. But exercising through pregnancy has many positive benefits, as long as the exercise is appropriate for each stage of pregnancy.

Perhaps the best example I can give is my personal one. I have been pregnant twice. The first time I didn't exercise, I wasn't working and I was fussed over by two sets of parents. I was huge, unconditioned and poorly prepared for child birth. Consequently, my lovely baby boy was huge (compared to my small frame), labour was long (24hrs) and mainly in my back.

When he was delivered I suffered SPD now known as Pelvic Girdle Pain. This meant I could not walk for the first week and had to have physio to learn to walk correctly.

Ten months after birth, and still to this day (30yrs later) I am still suffering from the damage to my pelvic area. It took me 2 years to lose the excess weight.

Pregnancy number 2 was 3 years after the first, I had to wait this long because of the damage caused the first time.

I exercised before and during my pregnancy only stopping at 7 months due to pelvic pain (the after effects of first pregnancy). I was conditioned and although large not as large as the first time and I was working a physical job.

This time I was more prepared.

The labour was only one hour long, I suffered no SPD and returned to my pre-pregnancy weight within 3 months.

The first pregnancy was extreme and I am not saying that this will happen to you if you don't exercise whilst pregnant.

We need to study the anatomical and physiological changes that occur in a pregnant person’s body, what happens to you is really quite dramatic. Sorry – did I scare you a bit there?! It really is a life-changing experience.

There are several postural changes that happen to your body eg your shoulders start to round forwards, your hips get tighter, your back gets more of an excessive lumbar curve, your gluteals weaken etc.

So let's take a look at the benefits of exercising in pregnancy:

  • Possible reduction in back pain

  • Improved core strength - this will help to support your spine and help carry baby around

  • The correct type of exercise can prevent muscles from becoming over tight and weak

  • Improved posture

  • Less likelihood of experiencing leg cramps, swelling, constipation, and varicose veins

  • Lower chance of high blood pressure

  • Quicker recovery time after the birth

  • May help curb excessive weight gain

Please remember:

Always seek advice from your health care professional before starting or continuing with any exercise programme whilst pregnant. Find a fitness professional well qualified to deliver exercise in pregnancy. If you are an experienced exerciser, you will need to adapt your exercise to support your changing body and developing baby. If you are pregnant and new to exercise, then I would suggest finding a Beginners Pilates class with an experienced instructor who is happy to work with you or seek out a prenatal class.

When choosing a Pilates class please consider the points listed below:

Many Pilates exercises would be considered highly unsuitable for pregnant ladies, but there are many others that are ideal. It is important to choose the right Pilates class as not all Pilates is the same. I have listed a few points on what to consider when choosing a good Pilates class:

  • A class should have a maximum of 12 - 15 participants

  • Classes should be graded: beginners, improvers, and so on

  • You should be asked to complete a written consent form before you start you session

  • Look for a class that provides full length mats, pillows and blocks

  • Your teacher should move around the room, and you should be offered some hands on guidance.

Under normal circumstances exercise in Pregnancy will be beneficial, but please make sure that you get the right help. Make sure your midwife or doctor knows of your intention to exercise and that they are happy for you to partake. Find a class/instructor or PT that is appropriately qualified in pre and post natal exercise, but more importantly enjoy your pregnancy!

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