Exercise is extremely important throughout a woman’s life and pregnancy is no different. Preparation for labour may be one of the best things to do right now for you and your little one. No one can predict how your body will progress throughout your pregnancy and every pregnancy will be different but what studies have shown is exercise can only benefit both mother and child. Not only will it help you through pregnancy and prepare your body for labour, it will also help you “bounce back” postpartum and you will have more energy to cope with the demands of motherhood. Here are a few of the many benefits of Prenatal Exercise:
- Maintain a Healthy Weight Gain
You’re supposed to gain weight in pregnancy. However, dependent on your body, there is a certain amount of weight that is recommended. Pregnancy weight gain is variable but if you are eating well and exercising regularly, you should remain within the recommended weight to deliver a healthy baby and sustain your healthy body. A woman who exercise regularly throughout their pregnancy gain 3% less body fat than those who do not exercise.
- Improve your mood & reduce stress
A little burst of exercise can improve anyone’s mood and it can be extremely beneficial when pregnant. When you exercise, your body releases a hormone called endorphins into the body, which triggers a feeling of positivity and reduces your perception of pain. When you are pregnant, your body is more sensitive, so a little burst of endorphins can make you feel positive and upbeat about your day ahead and also help with pain reception in labour. Exercise can boost your levels of serotonin, a brain chemical linked to mood, putting you in better spirits.
- Reduces chances of gestational diabetes
The most common medical complication in pregnancy in Gestational Diabetes. Gestational Diabetes is when a woman cannot produce enough insulin to break down glucose in the body. The body then contains high levels of sugar and is then passed through the placenta to the baby causing complications and the risk of developing Diabetes. Staying active through pregnancy prevents weight gain and reduces the risk of Gestational Diabetes.
- Prepare for delivery
Studies have shown exercising during pregnancy has proven woman to have shorter labours, less chance of Caesarean section, faster postpartum recoveries and also fewer complications during labour. Preparing and Strengthening the Pelvic floor muscles and keeping your core muscles strong can only benefit you during your labour. The focus on muscle control and breathing can really benefit you when “Pushing” in labour.
- Improve Recovery after delivery
Getting and staying fit while you are pregnant helps you to recover more quickly after giving birth. During pregnancy, your muscles can become overstretched. Maintaining strength and muscle tone can help your muscles go back to their original shape more quickly post-partum.
- Improve sleep
As your pregnancy progresses, sleep can become uncomfortable. Each stage of pregnancy brings a different set of sleep challenges as both your hormonal chemistry and body shape changes. Regular exercise helps to naturally regulate your body clock so that you are able to fall asleep more quickly and enjoy a deeper, most restful sleep. However, as exercising releases endorphins which will energize the body, it is advised to exercise early in the day so you are not too full of energy when it is time to go to bed.
- Edema (Water retention)
Edema is a condition you are likely to experience when you are pregnant. Due to the increased blood volume during your pregnancy, fluid can accumulate in the body to the extremities. Edema commonly targets the ankles, legs, and hands and is more common in the evenings. As well as avoiding foods high in sodium, getting your sweat on and exercising can be a great way to reduce Edema. Exercise reduces water weight even more by burning through glycogen energy stores. However, replacing lost fluids is vital after any physical activity to avoid dehydration. A workout also stimulates blood flow and improves circulation, which can reduce fluid build-up throughout the body, especially in the legs and feet.
- Less Pelvic floor issues
The pelvic floor is crucial for the support and function of the pelvic organs. Pregnancy and labour can weaken the pelvic muscles which can result in poor bladder and bowel control. During pregnancy, the growing uterine size places increasing pressure on the bladder and urethra, this causes a pregnant woman to feel the need to urinate more frequently. Pelvic floor function can be improved by performing simple exercises that improve muscle strength. The exercises should be started early in pregnancy and continued throughout a woman’s life.
- Less Back pain
As your body will constantly be changing throughout your pregnancy and your abdominal muscles stretch, the muscles are less able to engage and support your lower back. Hormonal changes also result in pregnant women’s joints and ligaments to loosen. Strengthening your muscles will help your body to cope better with the aches and pains of pregnancy.
So, in conclusion, there’s really no downside to exercise throughout your pregnancy and post-partum and there are actually a lot of benefits to doing so. While exercising does not 100% guarantee you will have the easiest pregnancy, delivery, or recovery, it certainly will not hurt!