By: Paige Wyatt
Living a health lifestyle has never been more important than while you’re pregnant. Not only are you now responsible for your overall health and well being, but also that of your unborn baby. What we eat, how much we sleep, how much water we drink, our mental and emotional stress, as well as how much we exercise need to be taken into consideration for a healthy pregnancy.
The new 2019 Canadian Guidelines for Physical Activity Throughout Pregnancy has shed a new light on recommendations for prenatal physical activity. Not only can we help to reduce complications during pregnancy but it can also optimize health and wellbeing for both mother and child.
Previous concerns over fetal health during pregnancy have long been a deterrent for prenatal physical activity. The thought of exerting ourselves and potentially increasing our chances of miscarriage, stunting gestational growth, inducing preterm labour, and harming the fetus has caused a lot of expecting mothers to reduce and stop their exercise program. Less than 15% of women are engaging in the recommended prenatal exercise.
But, here’s the truth; these concerns have never been proven by research. Instead we’ve seen a rise in pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, gestational hypertension and large for date babies, which may be the cause of rising maternal obesity.
Physical activity is now being looked at as a preventative and therapeutic measure to reduce pregnancy complications.
WHAT DO THEY RECOMMEND?
• All women without contraindications should be physically active throughout pregnancy
• 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week
• Physical activity should be accumulated over a minimum of 3 days per week
• Aerobic and resistance training achieved greater benefits
• Pelvic floor muscle training (eg. Kegels) may be performed on a daily basis to prevent urinary incontinence
• Exercises should be modified to reduce supine position
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
Women who exercise during pregnancy have a reduced chance of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, gestational hypertension, cesarean delivery and operative vaginal delivery. Exercising while pregnant can also help reduce post partum recovery time, decrease depression and stress levels, as well as overall weight gain.
IS EXERCISE FOR EVERYONE?
No. These guidelines are intended for women who do not have any pregnancy complications. Although exercise exhibits many health benefits there are certain conditions that are considered absolute contraindications. EVERYONE should be thoroughly evaluated by their OBGYN before beginning an exercise program to ensure there are no medical conditions.
Absolute contraindications are as follows:
• Ruptured membranes, premature labour
• Unexplained persistent vaginal bleeding
• Placenta previa after 28 weeks gestation
• Incompetent cervix
• Intrauterine growth restriction
• High-order multiple pregnancy (eg., triplets)
• Uncontrolled type 1 diabetes, uncontrolled hypertension, or uncontrolled thyroid disease
• Other serious cardiovascular, respiratory or systemic disorder
HOW TO START BEING PHYSICALLY ACTIVE DURING PREGNANCY?
According to the new guidelines there is never a better time to start exercising than the PRESENT. Even if you have never exercised before it is recommended to start. If you’ve never exercised, starting gradually and slowly increasing your intensity and frequency is recommended.
Although the more activity you do, the greater the benefit, even small amounts of physical activity have been proven to be beneficial. Exercise can be for everybody! Take a prenatal yoga class, go for a brisk walk, go for a swim, take an aerobics class or get your sweat on by stationary cycling.
Keep in mind that there may be periods of fatigue and discomfort as your body changes throughout pregnancy, and certain activities may need to be modified as pregnancy progresses. Remember, IT’S OKAY TO REST!
THINGS TO CONSIDER
- 1. Take it easy! A good indication that you are not overdoing your workouts is by using the “Talk Test.” If you are able to carry on a conversation while exercising it is likely that you are not overexerting yourself.
- 2. Always make sure you maintain adequate hydration- drink water before, during and after exercise.
- 3. Avoid physical activity in excessive heat and humidity (eg. hot yoga). A thermo-neutral environment is recommended.
- 4. Avoid activities that involve a risk of falling, or physical contact that may induce risk of fetal injury (eg. horse back riding, non-stationary cycling, extreme hiking)
- 5. No scuba diving.
- 6. No high altitudes.
- 7. Seek obstetric advice if considering exercising above the recommended guidelines.
- 8. Listen to your body and if you experience any symptoms while exercising such as persistent shortness of breath, severe chest pain, regular and painful uterine contractions, vaginal bleeding, persistent loss of fluid from the vagina, persistent dizziness, and faintness that does not resolve with rest STOP physical activity and consult a health care provider.
In summary the new 2019 Canadian Guidelines for Physical Activity Throughout Pregnancy has recommended moderate-intensity exercise during pregnancy to help reduce pregnancy complications and optimize health for both mother and baby.