By Dr Vanshika Gupta Adukia
Staying physically active during pregnancy comes with its sets of advantages; stress reduction, increased energy, improved posture, better digestion, increased strength and endurance along with stamina to sustain labour.
However, not every pregnancy may allow one to indulge in exercise through the gestational phase. Certain risk factors may prevent or limit your activities and it is important to check with your healthcare provider before beginning an exercise regime post conception.
Sometimes exercise during pregnancy may be forbidden to protect the health of the mother, baby or both. Ensure you have your healthcare practitioner in the loop before you start, continue or change any workout regimen.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has ruled out exercise if you have the following conditions when pregnant:
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
- Cervical insufficiency or weakening: The cervix begins to dilate (widen) and efface (thin) before the pregnancy has reached term.
- Cervical cerclage/cervical stitch: Treatment for cervical weakness, when the cervix starts to shorten and open too early during a pregnancy.
- Multiple gestation (for example twins, triplets), if you’re at a risk for preterm labour.
- Persistent second or third trimester bleeding.
- Ruptured membranes: Your water may have broken draining/leaking amniotic fluid.
- Placenta Previa or low lying placenta after 26 weeks: Increases chances of preterm labor or placental detachment.
- Severe anaemia
- Pre-eclampsia or pregnancy induced hypertension
If you’ve been exercising throughout pregnancy but have still wondered what ‘red flags’ to watch out for that would indicate you need to stop exercising, consider the following as warning signs:
- Preterm labour or having repeated contractions.
- Sudden gush or trickling of fluid from vagina.
- Vaginal bleeding.
- Feeling nauseous or dizzy.
- Pain in the belly or vaginal area.
- Excessive shortness of breath or chest pain.
- Headaches after exercise.
- Sudden swelling or puffiness of hands, feet or face.
- Noticeable and sudden drop in foetal movement.
- Severe weakness or fatigue that was previously not present post a workout.
Keep in mind the following guidelines:
- Consult your doctor before you begin or modify an exercise routine.
- Be sure to stretch, warm up and cool down with every exercise session.
- Keep yourself well hydrated through the exercise session and take breaks as required.
- Always eat a small meal 45 minutes to an hour before your workout session to prevent your sugar from falling and a sudden energy crash.
- Avoid lying on your back especially unsupervised.
- Use caution with activities that may impact your joints as during pregnancy joints are more loose and prone to injury.
- Exercises may need to be modified as per your balance requirements. The growing belly shifts your centre of gravity and makes it easier to fall.
- Pay attention to your body and listen to signs so as to slow down or stop when needed.
- Always breath correctly while working out and never hold your breath at any point of time.
Give your body adequate rest period or recovery time and do not over do any for of exercise that would prove to be detrimental to the baby, yourself or both.
(The writer is a pregnancy, childbirth, lactation specialist and pelvic floor physiotherapist.)