While age may be the most important factor for falling pregnant, there are many lifestyle factors that can impact a women’s pregnancy journey – particularly exercise. Keeping active is beneficial in all stages of pregnancy, from conception right through to post-delivery – and is extremely beneficial for both mum and bub.
It is important for women to be healthy if they want to maximise their chances of falling pregnant, this includes keeping their BMI within a normal weight range (18.5 to 25). Being under or overweight can not only cause women to not ovulate regularly, but also independently decreases the chance of any given embryo implanting.
Ideally, women shouldn’t wait until they are pregnant to start a fitness regime, instead moderate physical activity can increase a women’s chance of conceiving – aim for 30 minutes per day. These activities can include brisk walking, leisurely cycling, golfing, a light jog and even gardening. It’s important not to over-do it though, as excessive exercise can negatively alter energy balance in the body and affect the reproductive system.
Health practitioners agree that exercising during pregnancy, if you have a normal and healthy pregnancy, is not only safe – but has many physical and mental benefits.
Safest exercises while pregnant
Swimming: A popular form of exercise, swimming is great as its low impact and weightless – so particularly beneficial in the later trimesters, and can be a welcome relief to aches and pains. Additionally swimming improves circulation, boosts heart and lung function and increases muscle tone and strength. It also promotes good sleep, which will be favourable in the later, uncomfortable months.
Walking: Brisk walking is effective during pregnancy, as it doesn’t put much pressure on the joints and muscles and can be easily incorporated in anyone’s daily routine. It’s improves cardiovascular fitness, while giving the body a complete workout.
Low impact aerobics: this works the heart and lungs and is great for improving over-all cardiovascular fitness.
Yoga: yoga is easy on the joints, encourages relaxation and is great for helping with posture and maintaining muscle tone.
Pilates: a great exercise to strengthen the stomach and pelvic floor muscles – and targets these areas that can weaken during pregnancy.
Weight training: Depending on where your fitness level was at when you started exercising, weight training while pregnant can be a great way to maintain fitness level and increase strength.
Benefits of exercising while pregnancy
Helps maintain a healthy body weight: A healthy body weight, will help ensure baby’s healthy weight – and this will maximise the chances of a natural and easier birth.
Lowers risk of gestational diabetes: Exercising helps to keep your body weight in control and may reduce the risk of developing high blood sugar levels.
Stress relief: There is nothing more exciting (but nerve-wracking) then an impending birth, and with hormones raging and pregnancy mood swings, exercise can be a great natural stress buster. Physical activity releases endorphins which makes us feel good – both physically and mentally.
Prepares the body for birth: Exercise can increase flexibility and tones and strengthens muscles. Yoga and pilates are particularly beneficial for stretching, as well as strengthening the tummy, back and pelvic floor muscles.
Reduces general aches and pains: With all the changes the body must undergo while pregnant, gentle exercise can help combat some of the discomfort.
Increases energy: There is no denying that pregnancy can make the body feel sluggish – exercise can revitalise the body and increase energy.
Gentle exercise can be a great way to get the body moving post-birth – simple postpartum exercises such as pelvic tilts, head and shoulder raises and simple push ups, can help strengthen major muscles groups that have been affected by the delivery, including abdominal and back muscles. Moderate gradual-intensity exercise can then be added.
Dr Knight is a Medical Director, Fertility Specialist, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Demeter Fertility. With a history of innovation, he is a pioneer of Mild Ovarian Stimulation in Australia and one of Australia’s most experienced fertility specialists.