Maintaining a regular workout routine throughout your pregnancy is an excellent way to reduce severe body aches, manage symptoms of anxiety and stress, improve postpartum recovery and maintain overall physical and mental fitness.
Studies suggest that pregnant women who work out throughout their trimester are more likely to have a safe vaginal delivery and a healthier recovery post delivery. Regular exercise during pregnancy has also been shown to strengthen the blood vessels and heart and alleviate constipation. Not to mention, exercises are also important during the postpartum period to help reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) explains that exercise is a must for pregnant women, as it leads to fewer chances of:
- Cesarean birth
- Preterm birth
- Lower birth weight
- Hypertensive problems such as preeclampsia
- Excessive weight gain.
Safe Exercises for Pregnant Women
Here are six safe exercises pregnant women can do during their pregnancy:
1) Pelvic Brace
The pelvic brace is an easy exercise that can be done throughout pregnancy if you don’t have any type of pelvic floor symptoms, including urinary urgency or pain.
Here’s how to do it:
Start by lying on your back with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent. Position your lower back and pelvis into a neutral position.
Make sure you rest comfortably on the back of your pelvis, and also ensure there's a small amount of space in your lower back. As you exhale, do a Kegel contraction by slowly closing the openings of your vagina, anus and urethra. Gently move your lower abs in the Kegel motion, and relax your pelvic floor and abs. Repeat the contraction a few more times.
Water aerobics and swimming are also some safe exercise options for pregnant women. That's because you weigh less in the water than you do on land, and you’ll feel much lighter and more relaxed.
Moreover, swimming can also help relieve sciatic pain, nausea and swollen ankles. However, be careful while walking on pool decks, and consider sliding or stepping into the water rather than jumping in or diving.
3) Tailor Exercises
Tailor exercises are another very effective exercise for pregnant women. These exercises strengthen the hips, thighs and pelvic muscles and also ease back pain.
Sit comfortably on the floor or on a mat, with your knees bent and both ankles crossed. Slightly lean forward, and make sure your back is straight. Use this position throughout the day whenever possible.
Start the exercise by sitting on the floor or mat. Keep both the knees bent, and place the bottoms of your feet together. Hold your ankles, and gently pull your feet towards your body; position your hands under your knees.
Slowly press down on your knees, and press your hands up against them, creating counter pressure. Continue to press for a few seconds before releasing. Repeat.
4) Side Lying Leg Lift
Start by lying on your left side with both knees bent and on top of each other. Slowly lift your left side off the floor so that there's a small gap between the floor and your waist.
Straighten your right leg in front of you, and rotate your hips slightly to point your toes towards the floor. As you exhale, lift your leg, and slowly lower it down. Switch sides, and perform leg lifts with your left leg.
5) Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Take a kneeling position, step one foot in front of you, and move your arms forward at your shoulder height. Shift your hips slightly forward; squeeze your glutes, and stretch the arm of the kneeling leg up towards the ceiling for a gentle hip flexor stretch.
When doing this exercise, make sure you maintain the squeeze throughout the move on the kneeling glute. Return to the initial position, and repeat.
6) Mermaid Stretch
The mermaid stretch can ease the pressure on your ribs and diaphragm.
Sit on the floor with your knees folded or bent and feet facing to your left. Lift your right arm straight towards the ceiling, and side bend your upper body towards your left. As you do that, you’ll feel a stretch on your right side. Hold the stretch for a few deep breaths, and relax. Switch sides, and repeat.
Staying physically and mentally fit when you're pregnant offers a plethora of benefits for you and your baby. While the aforementioned exercises are safe, they're not recommended for pregnant women with health concerns, such as heart disease, asthma or diabetes.
Moreover, specific workouts might also be unsafe for women with pregnancy-related problems, such as low placenta, spotting, recurrent miscarriage or weak cervix. It's best to consult your doctor before starting an exercise programme to have customised exercise guidelines, based on your health and medical history.