Useful information on why it is important to exercise during pregnancy and suggested stomach and pelvic floor exercises to help you keep fit.
The more active and fit you are during pregnancy, the easier it will be for you to adapt to your changing shape and weight gain. It will also help you to cope with labour and get back into shape after the birth. If you feel tense after a hard day's work, physical activity is an excellent way of relaxing and it will help you to sleep soundly.
Keep up your normal daily physical activity or exercise (sport, or dancing, or just walking to the shops and back) for as long as you feel comfortable. Don't exhaust yourself and remember that you may need to slow down as your pregnancy progresses, or if your doctor advises you to. If in doubt, consult your doctor or midwife.
If you were inactive before you were pregnant, do not suddenly take up strenuous exercise. Remember, exercise does not have to be strenuous to be beneficial.
Stomach strengthening exercises
- Try to keep active on a daily basis. Building in half an hour of activities like walking can help to keep you active. If you can't manage that, any amount is better than nothing.
- Avoid any strenuous exercise in hot weather.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- If you go to exercise classes, make sure your teacher is properly qualified, and knows that you're pregnant and how far your pregnancy has progressed.
- You might like to try swimming because the water will support your increased weight. Some local swimming pools provide aquanatal classes with qualified instructors.
These strengthen abdominal muscles and ease backache, which can be a problem in pregnancy. As your baby gets bigger you may find that the hollow in your lower back increases. This can give you backache.
Pelvic tilt exercises.
- Start in a box position (on all fours) with knees under hips, hands under shoulders with fingers facing forward and abdominals lifted to keep the back straight
- Pull in the abdominals and raise the back up towards the ceiling, curling the trunk and allowing the head to relax gently forward
- Do not allow elbows to lock out
- Hold for a few seconds then slowly return to the box position
- Take care not to hollow the back. The back should always return to a straight/neutral position
- Do this slowly and rhythmically ten times, making your muscles work hard and moving your back carefully. Only move your back as far as you can comfortably.
Pelvic floor exercises
- Stand with your shoulders and bottom against a wall.
- Keep your knees soft
- Pull your belly button towards your spine, so that your back flattens against the wall.
- Hold for four seconds and release.
- Repeat up to ten times.
These help strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor, which come under great strain, in pregnancy and childbirth. The pelvic floor consists of layers of muscles which stretch like a supportive hammock from the pubic bone (in front) to the end of the backbone. If your pelvic floor muscles are weak, you may find that you leak urine when you cough or sneeze. This is quite common and you needn't feel embarrassed.
However, you can strengthen the muscles by doing the following exercise:
- close up your back passage as if trying to prevent a bowel movement
- at the same time, draw in your vagina as if you are gripping a tampon, and your urethra as if to stop the flow of urine
- do this exercise quickly, tightening and releasing the muscles immediately
- then do the exercise slowly holding the contractions for as long as you can (not more than ten seconds) before you relax
- repeat both exercises ten times, four to six times a day
These can be done sitting or standing. They improve blood circulation, reduce swelling in the ankles and prevent cramp in the calf muscles.
- Bend and stretch your foot vigorously up and down 30 times.
- Rotate your foot eight times one way and eight times the other way
- Protect your back
- Sit up straight with your bottom against the back of your chair. Tuck a small cushion behind your waist if you wish.
- When you pick something up, bend your knees, not your back.
- Try to stand tall.