So, in writing this blog the first thing I should probably confess is that my exercise during pregnancy was pretty much non-existent. There were a number of reasons for this. Firstly when I was about seven weeks pregnant I was admitted to hospital with stomach cramps. In spite of the fact that my hcg levels (a pregnancy hormone) were extremely high doctors couldn’t find any evidence of my pregnancy on a scan so I was diagnosed with a ‘pregnancy of unknown location’, probably either an ectopic or molar pregnancy. It was two scans and ten anxious days later that our son was finally ‘found’. Although I was overjoyed the experience definitely left me very aware of how precious yet vulnerable my baby was. I had heard that there may be links between exercising in pregnancy and miscarriage and didn’t want to do anything that might harm the baby.
Around the sixteen-week mark I already had a large bump and by the twenty-week mark I had already put on the recommended 2 stone that you are supposed to gain by the end of your pregnancy! Therefore I decided that maybe some gentle exercise might help, which lead me to my next obstacle - boredom. The only forms of exercise that seemed to be recommended for pregnancy were either swimming or yoga. Unfortunately I have never enjoyed swimming and after three sessions I just could not bring myself to continue with it. And even with the extra relaxin in my system I was still far too inflexible for yoga so that only lasted for two sessions.
I then gave little more thought to exercise until the 39th week of pregnancy when I was told that the baby had not engaged. At this point a quick Google alerted me to the benefits of walking and squatting to help stimulate labour. As the days ticked on and I went further and further overdue I stepped up the regime in desperation but sadly to little effect and I ended up being induced when I was 2 weeks overdue.
At this stage you may be forgiven for wondering how I became a part of Mama on the Move! However, if I had one regret about my pregnancy it was failing to exercise, for a number of reasons.
- After being induced I had a very long labour that ended in an emergency c-section. I now know how important the core muscles such as the transverse abdominis, pelvic floor and diaphragm are during labour and delivery.
- My son was also huge, weighing in at 9 pounds 11 ounces, when I am only 5”3. Again, during my training I discovered that there is a link between macrosomia (large babies) and a lack of physical activity in pregnancy.
- Post delivery I struggled to regain my pre-pregnancy figure, and when I resumed exercising I discovered I had a diastasis recti as well as pelvic floor problems – both of which I could have avoided or at least reduced if I’d exercised during pregnancy.
After training as a Pilates instructor and specialising in pregnancy and postnatal exercise I was surprised by the amount of mis-information and confusion there is about exercising in pregnancy, with many women keen to keep exercising but worried about the risks of miscarriage or harming the baby. With this in mind I created an infographic to highlight some of the benefits of continuing to exercise during pregnancy. Whilst exercising is no guarantee of a quick and easy labour there are so many advantages to both you and your baby including:
- Reducing backaches, constipation, bloating and swelling
- Boosting your mood and energy levels
- Helping you sleep better
- Preventing excess weight gain
- Promoting muscle tone, strength and endurance
My experiences inspired me to help other expectant mothers to start or continue to exercise in pregnancy. I teamed up with Laura to create the Mama on the Move pregnancy programme, which includes Pilates and strength workouts that are safe and effective for your particular stage of pregnancy. You will also receive our pregnancy exercise guide with information and tips such as how to adapt your existing gym or class workouts for each trimester of pregnancy. We’ve also created a nutrition guide and included lots of delicious recipes and advice on eating well in pregnancy. Click on the link to sign up to our pregnancy programmes today.