#1- Will pregnancy affect my ability exercise?
The biggest change in your exercise will be monitoring the intensity; according to ACOG/CSEP guidelines maternal heart rate should not exceed 140bpm. Keeping the intensity level appropriate is important to ensure that there is no marked change in fetal heart rate or temperature during or after exercise. An increase in temperature can cause fetal distress and may result in a lower birth weight or a less healthy birth outcome.
#2- How can I safely monitor my exercise intensity?
You can monitor your exercise intensity two main ways:
- Heart Rate Monitor -most accurate method -chest strap with wrist receiver
- Scale of Perceived Exertion -rating should not exceed 7 out of 10
Remember that this is not the time to be pushing fitness limits or trying to achieve personal best performances. If you are currently un-active/ unfit, a cautious approach will be the safest and healthiest path. If you are currently active/ fit then a maintenance program will be most appropriate.
#3- I’ve heard that I cannot exercise while lying on my back, is this true?
In a nutshell, yes. Lying or exercising in supine (lying on back) is mainly a concern in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters when the weight of the uterus and growing baby can place pressure on a major blood vessel call the vena cava. The vena cava is located on the right side of the body and is responsible for returning blood flow from the body to the heart; a decrease in flow can indirectly compromise blood flow to the baby.
However, recent research has found that low intensity supine exercise does not significantly affect blood flow until after the 35th week. Bottom line: err on the side of caution and only allow 2-3 minutes of supine exercise at a low intensity.
#4- How will I know if I’m doing too much supine exercise? Can I do permanent damage?
If blood flow starts to become compromised you may start to feel light-headed, dizzy and possibly breathless. These are normal physiological reactions however it is best to try and avoid them. If exercising, stop and roll onto right side and sit up slowly, symptoms should soon dissipate. If they don’t, seek medical attention right away.
Vena caval compression can usually be avoided by lying on your right or left side, sitting upright or even in a semi-upright position. Many exercises have been modified to allow pregnant women to exercise effectively. Be sure to seek guidance from a fitness professional who specializes in pre and post natal exercise to be sure your workouts are both safe and effective.
#5- Are there any situations in which I should avoid exercise/ activity?
Unfortunately there are some circumstances under which it is best not to engage is physical activity due to high risk of complications. Some of these contraindications include:
- history of 3 or more spontaneous miscarriages
- rupture membranes
- premature labor
- diagnosed multiple pregnancies
- incompetent cervix (cervix becomes softer and more open than normal)
- placenta previa (portion of the placenta sits over the cervix making it more vulnerable to detachment)
- pregnancy-induced hypertension
There are also instances of relative contraindications where exercise requires a doctor’s approval; some of these include:
- hypertension (high blood pressure)
- anemia (low blood iron)
- thyroid disease
- extremely under/over weight
- extremely sedentary
- breach presentation in 3rd trimester
- history of bleeding during pregnancy
#6- Are there any exercises or types of exercises that I should avoid?
Yes, even if you’re healthy and have been cleared by your doctor, due to the risk of abdominal trauma and possible musculoskeletal injury:
- contact sports/activities involving a high risk of falling, e.g. horse back riding, rock climbing, gymnastics, water skiing, surfing, basketball, football, netball, hockey, skiing etc.
Be aware that your balance, strength and agility will be affected by your pregnancy, especially in the later stages. Be aware and careful of taking unnecessary risks.
“Listen to your body” is a very appropriate yet under rated expression. If you feel tired or unwell, or are not in the mood to exercise, it’s probably best to rest.
#7- I know hydration is important when exercising, what about exercising when pregnant?
Water has many important functions in your body including lubrication of the joints and internal organs, as well as acting as a coolant by helping to regulate your body temperature. When pregnant, the body’s water needs do increase due to the extra calories being consumed and the additional blood being produced. Additionally, with greater body weight comes increased sweat production and thus a greater need for water to keep the body cool.
Increasing water intake can also ease some of the common discomforts that women often experience during pregnancy:
- uterine cramping
- bladder infection
- heart burn
A minimum of 3 litres of pure water per day is a good general rule.
#8- Can anything be done about the pain I am feeling in my low back and hips as my pregnancy progresses?
Back and posterior hip pain is common during pregnancy and can be caused by such factors as increased body weight, a history of back pain, repetitive bending and lifting, postural changes and hormonal changes.
There are various forms of corsets and supportive braces which may help to increase the stability of the low back alleviating discomfort. However, good low back and core strength act as a natural girdle giving the back the support it needs throughout pregnancy and afterwards. Pregnant women and new moms should be doing a variety of specialized core and back strengthening exercises along with flexibility exercises to help reduce the risk of low back pain.
Are you curious about how exercise to improve your health?
To learn contact us for a customized Pre orPost Natal fitness assessment with one of our certified prenatal personal trainers.
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-866-EXERCISE, 1-866-396-7247.