Exercising while pregnant has a lot of benefits, such as helping to cope with the gradual weight gain. However, there are some issues to be aware of to help you keep safe. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.
Can I still exercise when I'm pregnant?
Yes! Exercising during the first trimester will actually help mums-to-be prepare and cope with the gradual weight gain of pregnancy. Exercise does not increase your risk of miscarriage or induce preterm labour. However, if you've been diagnosed with a medical condition that requires bed rest, speak to your doctor before starting any exercise programme.
How much exercise should I be doing?
If you've been inactive or sedentary before your pregnancy, start with 15 minutes daily of light exercise like walking. Gradually increase this to 30 minutes a day for five to seven days a week. If you've been active prior to your pregnancy, it's fine to continue with your current exercise programme.
What exercises should I avoid?
Don't take part in contact sports, competitive sports, and activities that involve jumping, jarring motions or require rapid changes of direction like tennis or squash. You should also stay away from high-impact exercises that might cause joint pain, such as Zumba and running. Also, avoid standing still for long periods of time.
What should I be aware of before starting to exercise?
It's always a good idea to consult your doctor before starting any exercise programme. There are several medical conditions that may require medical advice and supervision prior and during exercise, including:
- certain heart and/or lung diseases
- weak cervix (neck of the womb)
- pregnancy with multiple gestation (e.g. twins and triplets)
- premature labour or ruptured membranes during current pregnancy
- pre-eclampsia or pregnancy-induced hypertension
- severe anaemia
- poorly controlled diabetes
- morbid obesity or if you're severely underweight.
When should I stop exercising?
Don't push yourself beyond your current fitness level and rest frequently if you're feeling breathless. If you're planning to do any weight training, focus on muscles that support pregnancy, such as your shoulders, lower back and thighs. To prevent any unnecessary stress and strain, only use light weights.
Stop all exercises immediately and seek medical help if you experience symptoms like vaginal bleeding, nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness, strong pain (especially in the back or pelvis), reduced baby movement, chest pain or amniotic fluid leakage.
By Associate Professor TAN Thiam Chye Head & Senior Consultant, Dr Michelle LIM Senior, O&G Resident, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, KK Women's and Children's Hospital
The New Art and Science of Pregnancy and Childbirth 2008, World Scientific
Healthy Start for your Pregnancy 2012, Health Promotion Board Singapore
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