Wed | Nov 20, 2019

Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?

Published:Saturday | February 14, 2015 | 12:00 AM

With obesity on the rise worldwide, more and more pregnant women are likely to be obese. Weight-management interventions will need to be carefully chosen during pregnancy due to the unborn child.

Obesity during pregnancy increases the risk of pregnancy-induced diabetes, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, stillbirth, birth defects, childhood obesity, and oversized 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.

risk of miscarriage

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 show that whereas it did reduce the risk pregnancy-induced diabetes, it did reduce 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 rigorous for the mother. Contact sports, especially after the first trimester, may be particularly unsafe. Also, scuba diving, exercise above 6,000 feet, volleyball, soccer, cycling and basketball are not recommended.

safe choices

So, how should the business of exercise be approached? Some safe choices include walking, swimming, stretching and light jogging. Exercise can be done about three times weekly, lasting about 30 minutes each 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 as 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, a low-lying placenta, ruptured membranes, pre-eclampsia, current history of premature labour, and unresolved vaginal bleeding after the first trimester.