Definition Pregnancy is the process of childbearing and can be divided into three stages: preconception (before pregnancy), antenatal (during pregnancy), and postpartum (after pregnancy). There are specific exercise guidelines for woman at each of these stages of pregnancy.
What is the information for this topic? Preconception
Ideally, it is good for any woman to follow a regular exercise routine throughout her life. For women who are considering pregnancy, being in good physical condition before becoming pregnant is important. Being fit helps a woman's body meet the increasing physical demands of carrying a baby. A well-rounded exercise program should consist of aerobic exercise to strengthen the heart and lungs, and muscle toning exercises such as using weights, sit-ups, and push-ups.
Moderate physical activity is considered safe and extremely helpful for expectant mothers and their babies. During pregnancy, changes occur to a woman's body. These changes include: an increased heart rate at rest, increased circulation and blood volume, decreased blood pressure, increased laxity of joints, a shift in centre of gravity, and others. Exercise during pregnancy helps keep the heart and lungs working well and also strengthens the muscles and joints to make supporting the baby easier and more comfortable.
Antenatal Exercise Precautions
It is important for a woman to discuss physical activity at regular visits with her doctor. Pregnant women who are at high risk may need to limit physical activity. A high risk pregnancy is one in which the expectant mother has a medical problem, such as diabetes or high blood pressure; has any genetic problem; or is under 20 or over 35. In general, a pregnant woman should not get overheated and should not exercise to exhaustion. A woman should STOP exercising and call her doctor if any of the following occur during exercise:
dizziness or feeling faint
high blood pressure
severe joint pain
Types of Antenatal Exercise
The following four kinds of exercise can be useful during pregnancy:
1. Pregnancy-specific aerobics. Rhythmic and repetitive activities such as walking, bicycling, and swimming are strenuous enough to demand increased oxygen to the muscles, but not so strenuous that oxygen demand exceeds supply.
increase the ability to process and utilise oxygen
improve blood circulation, which enhances the transportation of oxygen and nutrients to the baby. They also lower the risk of varicose veins, haemorrhoids, and fluid retention.
Consult your doctor if any unusual symptoms occur during exercise.
Don't exercise in hot, humid weather or during any illness if a fever is present.
Don't exercise strenuously for longer than 15 minutes at a time.
Don't raise body temperature to more than 37.5 degrees Celsius.
Don't use exercises that require women to hold their breath or bear down.
Daily exercise can help restore muscle tone and return a woman's body to the condition it was before pregnancy, or to an improved condition. Exercise programs should be designed to meet individual needs. Although exercise may seem like an effort, it can actually help new mothers feel less tired. Exercise raises energy level and boosts a woman's general sense of wellbeing. Always check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
Author: Dr. Karen Wolfe, MBBS, MA Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel Editor: Dr John Hearne Last Updated: 21/03/2005 Contributors Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request
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