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Is exercise safe during pregnancy?

Published:Tuesday | January 12, 2016 | 12:00 AM

With obesity on the rise worldwide, more and more pregnant women will now be obese. Weight management interventions will need to be carefully chosen during pregnancy due to the unborn child. What about exercise, is it safe?

Obesity during pregnancy increases the risk of pregnancy-induced diabetes, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, stillbirth, birth defects, childhood obesity and over-sized foetus, which may cause birth injuries. Some women seem particularly prone to becoming obese during pregnancy, especially when obesity exists in the family.

Calorie restriction must be carefully undertaken and may be unsafe as the unborn child needs

adequate nutrients to grow and develop properly. Weight loss pills are also not recommended during pregnancy as they may harm the foetus.

Many may frown upon exercise during pregnancy as they think it may increase the risk of miscarriage but this has not been proven to be true. As a matter of fact studies showed not only did it reduce the risk pregnancy-induced diabetes, it also reduced the risk of an overweight foetus, caesarean section and excessive weight gain by the mother. It has even been shown to improve posture, exertion tolerance, mood, muscular strength, sleep and ability to tolerate labour.

So does this mean that pregnant mothers can do any exercise they feel? Definitely not! As expected, some forms of exercise are off-limits. There are some activities that can harm the foetus and that may be too rigourous for the mother. Contact sports,

especially after the first trimester, may be particularly unsafe. Also scuba diving, exercise below 6000 feet, volleyball, soccer, cycling and basketball are not


So how should the business of exercise be approached? Some safe choices included walking, swimming, stretching and light jogging. Exercise can be done about three times weekly, lasting about 30 minutes per session. There is no definite guideline regarding the intensity of the workout, but it should be kept well within the limits of tolerance of the pregnant mother. During the second and third trimester the mother should not be lying flat on her back for long, because this can interfere with internal blood flow. Adequate hydration is also important.

As expected, there are some situations where

exercise during pregnancy is not recommended. These include a weakened cervix, the presence of a cervical stitch, low-lying placenta, ruptured membranes, pre-eclampsia, current history of premature labour and unresolved vaginal bleeding after first trimester.