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“I feel like I am decaying” has, for generations, been the war cry of pregnant mothers since the dawn of time. Well, that, and “I can’t wait for this to be over”. Today, we’ll be focusing on the former. In particular, how to stay somewhat active…or as active as you can possibly be without injuring both yourself or your unborn baby. As with all things related to pregnancy, we recommend you check in with your physician or OB-GYN to see what exercises are suitable for you.
You’ve got backaches, bloating, swelling, irritability, nausea, and a slew of other pregnancy-induced side effects. You heard from friends or perhaps even read online that some of your symptoms can be alleviated by doing some light exercises. Yes, it may be counterintuitive to hear the word exercise, and much less think of it, while you’ve got a baby in your tummy. However, with each passing day, there’s more and more research that supports the idea of exercising while you are with your child.
The latest research would suggest that aside from improving your stamina and heart health, exercising can help reduce the risk of pregnancy complications, boost your mood, lower your blood pressure, ease back and pelvic pain, fight fatigue, improve sleep, relieve constipation, lower the odds of delivery complications, and speed up post-delivery recovery.
“That is all nice and well, but how do you actually go about it?” we hear you ask. Well, first things first, and we can not overstate this, get your health care provider’s assessment and green light first. Once that is done, we take a look at the first one you can do.
This may not seem like exercise at all, but, research has shown that even a walk around your HDB flat or neighbourhood is enough to get your heart pumping and this works your cardiovascular system without taxing your muscles and joints. This is also considered a very low-risk activity.
Should your doctor feel you are up for the task, we can try jogging. This is a slightly more active version of the walking activity in that there are more moving actions, and it is recommended that pregnant women do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week, which includes jogging. However, if you’ve never gone jogging or running prior to being pregnant, we do not recommend your pregnancy period to be the time for you to try picking it up.
Prenatal yoga has been shown to confer a number of benefits such as improved sleep, reduced stress and anxiety, increased strength and muscle endurance, and decreased back pain, nausea, headaches and shortness of breath.
Yoga helps encourage you to focus on breathing in and out slowly and deeply. This focus on breathing might help you manage your breath during pregnancy and work through those labour contractions. On top of that, yoga helps calm the mind and body which provides physical and emotional stress relief.
You’ve probably heard it before and thought someone was mispronouncing a bagel. The exercise is actually named after a gynaecologist named Arnold Kegel and these exercises can help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles which stretch during pregnancy and even during childbirth. The idea behind strengthening the muscles in these areas would be to minimise the stretching that occurs and make the muscles in your pelvic area strong which would, in turn, help reduce something called postpartum incontinence.
With this one, it is important to note that you should be quite careful when swimming. Even though it is generally considered a safe activity which helps build strength and aerobic capacity, you really do not want to be twisting your abdomen while doing this. Also, if you are swimming in the daytime out at a beach somewhere, do not wander off too far from shore or from wherever assistance is readily available, and make sure that the temperature does not rise above 37 degrees Celsius. Now, we’re not suggesting that you carry a thermometer around with you in your bag, but try staying away from hot tubs, hot springs, or even a very warm bath. A rise in body temperature due to you being submerged in hot water could result in birth complications and even put you at risk of a potential miscarriage.
This final one is a bit of an all-around exercise. It balances strength, mobility, and flexibility training. Practising it during your pregnancy may help prepare you for labour and delivery, and could help speed up your recovery phase. Much like its yoga counterpart, Pilates breathing not only calms the nerves, but also helps in stamina building. However, as this is an active exercise regime, be mindful of your blood flow and body temperature.
While every exercise will carry with it inherent risk, we strongly urge and advise you to consult with your doctor before attempting any exercise. Here’s a bonus recommendation. It’s not an exercise, per se, but it may just help make your pregnancy or post-pregnancy recuperation much more bearable – prenatal massage.
Yes, as always, do check with your doctor, but a body massage for pregnant women, or any prenatal body massage, in general, can confer a slew of benefits like better sleep and reducing water retention, just to name a few. In fact, if you enjoy it so much and would like a massage after pregnancy, we have packages for that too!