Typically, women are advised to continue exercising as able throughout their pregnancy. That’s because exercise has many benefits for both mum and baby. We all know that exercising is good for us, but what is its specific role in pregnancy?
- Mental health. Endorphins released during exercise have a positive impact on mental health. Evidence suggests physical activity during pregnancy is associated with improved mental health throughout gestation and the postpartum period, and may reduce the risk of post-partum depression.
- Decreased risk of pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia is a dangerous pregnancy complication characterised by high blood pressure that usually occurs around 20 weeks. Evidence suggests that there is a 43% reduction in pre-eclampsia risk in women who exercise in early pregnancy to 20 weeks. It is still unclear whether exercising with pre-eclampsia can improve your symptoms.
- Decreased likelihood/improved management of gestational diabetes. Women who exercise have improved insulin sensitivity and are better able to regulate their blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of developing gestational diabetes.
- Post-partum weight loss. Commonly participating in aerobic exercise and breast feeding are the primary indicators of post-partum weight loss.
- Heart health. Evidence shows that women who exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week have lower heart rates during pregnancy, and their babies had better heart rate variability, indicating that they have better cardiovascular health from the get go.
- Decreased fat mass at birth. Prenatal exercise can reduce the amount of fats and glucose mothers make available to their babies, helping them grow more optimally.
Women who burn the most calories, particularly in the third trimester when the baby gains most of their fat tissues, give birth to babies with less body fat. Experts suggest that babies born at healthy weights are less likely to become overweight later in life.
- Improved labour. While childbirth varies for everyone, there is growing evidence to suggest that fitter people have easier labours. This could be due to baby’s birth weight, improved flexibility, or improved muscular strength and endurance, though further research needs to be conducted.
- Better sleep. It is well known that regular exercise helps to improve your sleep, which can inversely impact your mood and pain tolerance.
- More energy. Regular exercise also plays a role in improving energy levels, which is especially important in mitigating pregnancy related fatigue.
The most important thing about exercise during pregnancy is that it is done safely and is enjoyable. Our physiotherapists can help you find a way to exercise that works best for you!