This month we’ve had a chat with Claire Mockridge, Health Columnist for the Nottingham Evening Post and Ante/Postnatal Fitness Expert who has worked with over 900 pregnant and postnatal women (and their babies!) in Nottingham.
Keeping fit and active during pregnancy is really important and Claire tells you how and why.
Why should pregnant women be encouraged to exercise?
Exercising during pregnancy has many benefits, to both mum-to-be and her unborn baby. Here’s a short list of how exercise can help you as an expectant mum:
-combat excessive weight gain
-maintain your fitness level
-keep your heart and lungs strong to withstand labour
-increase your chances of speedy postnatal recovery
-re-align your posture
-tone your abdominals
-strengthen your pelvic floor
-decrease back pain
-improve your circulation
-get relief from indigestion, heartburn and constipation
-relieve tension in tight muscles
-give your unborn baby the best start in life
-and, helps you sleep better after a long, stressful day…
How much exercise should pregnant women do?
It’s vital that pregnant women perform some form of regular cardiovascular exercise which gets you a bit warm and sweaty, lasting between 20-30 minutes, 3-5 days a week. Claire suggests expectant mums find an aqua natal class, swim regularly (avoiding breaststroke), take a walk at lunchtime, or join a gym.
Can pregnant women attend a normal exercise class/the gym whilst pregnant?
For the first 12 weeks, Claire Mockridge suggests that pregnant woman continue with their current gym/exercise regime (morning sickness and fatigue pending). From 13 weeks onwards though, modifications need to be made to your program. Claire would suggest that pregnant mums find an Instructor who’s Antenatal-trained, or better still find a pregnancy exercise class like Bump to Babe, to help you stay active within a group, and meet other mums-to-be just like you.
Can exercise cause miscarriage?
There is no evidence to suggest that exercise causes miscarriage. If, however, your pregnancy is classed as “high-risk”, then some forms of physical activity may not be suitable for you. Your Doctor or Consultant will be best to answer this question for you, so if in doubt, ask them first. If however, you were fit and healthy before you got pregnant, and are having no complications during your pregnancy, then exercise should be at the forefront of your mind.
Can exercise help my baby?
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has realised some new evidence that suggests that: “Foetuses of exercising women are in a better position at the start of labour, and also tolerate labour better than those of non-exercisers.” When you undertake exercise, your breathing and heart goes up and down, and if you do this on a habitual basis, your baby will be used to this scenario too. Dr James F Clapp, a leading expert on exercise studies during pregnancy, concluded that: “Babies have a better growth and development pattern in utero than babies whose mothers did not exercise.” And goes on to say that: “Babies are more likely to be healthier, calmer and more intelligent than babies of non-exercising mothers.” He also states that: “The newborns of women who exercise don’t have trouble with the transition to life outside the uterus, and tend to be alert and easy to care for.”, so there you go. Exercise doesn’t just help you, it helps your baby too.
Is it harder to lose weight if I don’t exercise throughout pregnancy?
If you stay active during pregnancy and take an interest in returning to fitness after birth, you’ll certainly notice that their postnatal recovery is much, much easier. The first thing Claire observes when a pregnant mum returns to her postnatally, is a rise in that client’s fitness level in comparison to someone who did no exercise during pregnancy. Claire works with newly postnatal clients (and their babies too!) in her corebaby pilates and mummies buggies and fitness classes who admit to doing no structured exercise during their pregnancy. Put simply, if you do no exercise during pregnancy, chances are you’ll feel less fit throughout it, you’ll suffer with more aches and pains, your chances of suffering with stress incontinence can be higher, your abdominals will be less toned, and it makes your postnatal recovery ie your body’s ability to lose weight after birth, much, much harder.
Does regular exercise during pregnancy help me with labour?
Regular exercise during pregnancy can help really help: a) prepare your body for labour, and b) reduce your need for painkillers during birth itself. It’s not called “labour” for a reason is it? So, it’s vital that you stay as active as you can by keeping your strength up for what could be one of the potentially physical events of your life. Popping your feet up for a good solid 9 months is not going to do yourself any favours. Labour is physically demanding, no question about it, and the more efficient your heart and lungs are, and the stronger your arms and legs are, the better chance you have of dealing with childbirth itself.
When can women stop/start exercising during pregnancy?
Most pregnant women enrol on Claire’s antenatal fitness classes and pregnancy pilates courses from somewhere between 12-20 weeks, and the vast majority of these women continue exercising right up to 40 weeks (and beyond!). When you chose to start and stop exercising will depend on you as an individual, as every pregnancy is different.
To buy a copy of Claire’s Pregnancy Fitness DVD “Don’t let your bump get in the way”, or to enrol on one of Claire’s pregnancy or postnatal classes from week commencing 15 April 2013, connect with her here:
Facebook: Claire Mockridge Fitness