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April 15, 2014

Exercise During Pregnancy

Great for Mom and Baby!

Exercise is good for everyone, including pregnant women. Whether you were physically active before pregnancy or are now looking to start exercising, with your doctor’s ok, you can get ready, get set and go!

Benefits for Mom

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC), Kino-Québec and the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recommend moderate physical activity to pregnant women undergoing a normal pregnancy.  With good reason, since exercise has so many beneficial effects, including:

  • Better physical and mental fitness (less shortness of breath, back pain, stress and risk of postpartum depression)
  • More energy
  • Better quality sleep
  • Normal weight gain during pregnancy
  • Diminished risk of developing:
    • Gestational diabetes
    • Preeclampsia (hypertension combined with significant amounts of protein in the urine, potentially leading to serious consequences for the mother and her baby)
  • Lower risk of Caesarean birth
  • Faster recovery from childbirth

If you were not active before pregnancy, the SOGC recommends waiting until the 2nd trimester before starting a fitness program.

Benefits for Baby

Mom is not the only one who can take advantage of the benefits associated with exercise. Her baby too will enjoy:

  • Improved resilience during delivery
  • A reduced risk of high birth weight
  • Lower percentage of body fat in the first years of life

A few precautions

Other than getting the green light from your doctor, you also want to follow these precautionary measures when exercising during your pregnancy:

  • Avoid overly intense activities.
  • Listen to your body, adjust the intensity of your workouts to your capacity and take breaks when you need to.
  • Choose activities involving little risk of losing your balance, falling or getting hit in the stomach.
  • Drink enough fluids (about 250 ml of water every 30 minutes, before, during and after exercise) and avoid getting overheated.

Important!
Be on the lookout for the following symptoms and, if you experience any of them, stop exercising and see your doctor as soon as possible:

  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Blurry vision
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Heart palpitations or a racing heart that persists even after you stop exercising
  • Pain similar to uterine contractions (in the pubis, back or stomach)
  • Pain or swelling in the calves (water retention)

Safe activities for pregnant women

Cardiovascular and strength training both have many advantages for pregnant women:

 

Cardiovascular Training Strength Training
Improved respiratory capacity Better posture
Better oxygenation of the placenta Reduced risk of back pain
Reduced risk of water retention Lowered risk of urinary incontinence

Walking, swimming, riding a stationary bike, aquafitness,  aerobics without impact and strength training with weights or elastic bands are some of the safe activities pregnant women can enjoy, along with Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.

Kegel Exercises
To find the right muscles, picture the muscles you use when urinating or having a bowel movement.

  • Standing, seated or lying down, tighten the muscles and hold for 10 seconds, as if you were stopping urination or a bowel movement, then release. Do not push. Do not flex the muscles in your abdomen or buttocks.
  • Repeat 12 to 20 times, 5 times a day.

The Active for Two brochure produced by Kino-Québec provides good examples of strength training and stretching exercises adapted for pregnant women. It also gives guidelines on the recommended length and frequency of various types of activities.

Did you know?

  • Practising regular pelvic floor exercises after childbirth helps to reduce the risk of urinary incontinence later on.
  • Doing moderate exercise during breastfeeding does not affect the quantity or composition of breast milk.

Pharmacy services

Need advice on pregnancy or breastfeeding? Speak with your family pharmacist. He or she can answer your questions or direct you to the appropriate resources in your community.

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The uniprix.com Website deals with health-related topics. The information presented has been validated by experts and is accurate at the time of posting. In no way does it replace the opinion of a health care professional. Uniprix Inc. and its affiliated pharmacists accept no liability whatsoever in connection with the information provided on this Website.