What exercises are safe now that you have a baby on board? Plus, find out what exercises are safe for each trimester.
WORDS JOANNA ONG
Now that you’re so close to your due date and moving around may not be on your mind all that much, keep in mind that regular exercise will decrease your likelihood of gestational diabetes, excessive weight gain, back pain, constipation and complications with labour later on in the pregnancy.
You can continue with other low-impact exercises such as swimming, walking, Pilates and yoga but Kegel exercises are the number one exercise you will not want to skip, highlights Donna O’Shea, a certified pre-post-natal PT and Pilates instructor and the owner of Donna O’Shea Fitness. These can be done throughout your pregnancy but should be given particular focus in your last trimester and post-delivery. Women who perform Kegel exercises regularly often find they have the ability to control their muscles during labour and delivery more easily. Strengthening these muscles will also reduce the risk of haemorrhoids.
Throughout all these trimesters, preggy mums should focus on strengthening most of the major muscle groups, which includes the back, abdomen, pelvic floor, upper body, buttocks and lower limbs, highlights Dr Ivy Lim, a consultant at Changi Sports Medicine Centre & Singapore Sports Medicine Centre. Ashleigh Mitchell, an osteopath specialising in pregnancy and paediatrics from City Osteopathy & Physiotherapy adds that other muscles such as the erector spinae muscles (the muscles running down either side of your spine), piriformis muscles (one of the bum muscles that can cause sciatic pain when it’s tight), shoulder and neck muscles can get too tight during pregnancy and cause pain. This is where stretching and massage can help to relieve the pain.
When training pre-natal clients, O’Shea would focus on a strong back (the growth of the baby can put a strain on the spine), strong glutes and legs (to assist with carrying the extra weight and help you stay mobile and less tired) and upper body strength including arms (this prepares mums-to-be for all the carrying and feeding they will be doing when the little one arrives).
However, women in high-risk pregnancies such as bleeding, incompetent cervix and premature labour in previous pregnancies, should always speak to their obstetricians to discuss if exercise is contraindicated in their cases, as agreed by all the experts.
Women who were involved in competitive sports or have been very active before pregnancy are advised to make necessary adjustments to their regime or to tone down their version of exercise once they’re pregnant. Dr Lim doesn’t see pregnancy as a hindrance to active sports provided these women remain healthy. However, due to physiological changes during pregnancy, the decline in performance may be expected. Pregnancy is not a time to aim to greatly improve performance and pregnant sportswomen should discuss with their doctors how or when their activity should be adjusted over time. In addition, certain sports are best avoided during pregnancy. Scuba diving is a definite no-no as the foetus is at risk of decompression sickness. High altitude sports and activities with the risk of falling and trauma to the abdomen such as horse-riding and road cycling should be avoided as well.
O’Shea gives some alternatives to those training; if you were a cyclist before, you may decide to come off the roads and switch to an indoor bike where you can avoid traffic and train in air-con. As your bump grows, you can switch from an upright bike to a reclining bike to give your legs room to move without pressing against the bump. If you previously ran outside in hot temperatures, you might want to switch to indoor running on the treadmill where it is cooler and you can guarantee a flat surface to run on.