Women need more physical exercise than normal to have a strong and fit body during pregnancy. The changes that pregnancy imposes on the body could cause pains, aches and stress. Pregnancy hormones cause the body to retain water. Water is necessary to soften and stretch the tissues and muscles. Hard core exercises that strain the body may cause tissue and muscle tear, for this reason you must take care in choosing an exercise regime.
Pain due to the sensitivity of joints and the normally inactive front and back joints of the hipbone (femur), which is the largest joint in our body, being put to use during pregnancy can be alleviated, to a great extent, by means of regular exercising. Exercise improves blood circulation, the posture of the spinal column, which is the center of our body, thus balance is not distorted. Exercising during pregnancy increases our awareness of our body, and as a result we can better differentiate between the muscles we use, and confidence in our body will receive a boost. Learning how to relax and use our body during labour will shorten the duration of labour. Exercising ensures that we maintain the fitness of our body during pregnancy and achieve our pre-pregnancy form in a short period of time.
Things to pay attention to when exercising:
● You must not exercise on an empty or full stomach. You can exercise 1 hour after a meal.
● You should empty your bladder before starting, after finishing or if you feel the need then during the exercise.
● You must use comfortable exercise clothing that is not too tight on the body or makes you sweat.
● The area in which you perform your exercises must not be too hot or cold, you must avoid heavy and fast paced exercises and must not do those that strain your muscles.
● If you experience difficulty in breathing and feel palpitations in exercises performed on your back, immediately turn to your left side and rest and discontinue the exercises you do on your back and ensure your head is supported.
● Risk of miscarriage.
● Leaking amniotic fluid.
● Prohibition of exercising by the doctor due to pregnancy issues.
The exercises recommended are categorised into 3 groups:
1- Breathing Exercises (to improve breathing): This is the most important exercise type as it helps meet the increased oxygen and energy requirements of the body during pregnancy. It can be done on daily basis.
Application: If this exercise is done especially prior to meals, it will help digestion as the diaphragm muscle gets stronger and the area used in the lungs increases. Repeating this every day before each meal 5-6 times will help you internalise the workout and make it easier to focus on your breathing.
To do the breathing exercise; sit down comfortably, hold your back straight or you can lie down by pulling your legs up and supporting your head with a pillow. Place your right hand on your tummy and left hand on your breast to follow the path your inhaled breath follows in your body. When this turns into a habit and you learn how to breathe properly, you will not need the guidance of your hands. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing; slowly direct the breath you take in from your nose down to your abdomen and imagine it moving down further to your sacrum. Think of the energy that your inhaling will give to your body, affecting you right down to your toes; follow this by filling up your lungs and imagine the energy moving up to your head filling you everywhere, hold in the breath for a count of three and then let it out by blowing out or through your teeth, taking twice the time you took to inhale the air. If you inhaled your breath on the count of four, feel the air and energy inside you on the count of three and then let it out in 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Initially you will feel dizzy and warm and your heart rate will pick up pace, however, later on as you continue to do the exercise, the dizzying effect will cease. You will notice your baby moving when you inhale as he/she feels the oxygen and energy increase. You can use this time to establish a deeper communication with him/her and hold an internal dialog with your baby.
2- Moves that work the muscles: Doing a few simple but effective moves on a regular basis will benefit you. Your center of gravity has now changed to the front, to compensate for this you lean back with your shoulders and back. This increases the indentation in your back and gives you discomfort, therefore these moves done regularly in the mornings and evenings will strengthen your back, smooth out the indentation on your lower back and also help you to move the baby down during labor and take the right straining position. You can do this exercise standing up or lying down on a mat with your knees pulled up.
Place one of your hands on the indentation at your lower back and, as you inhale deeply, squeeze muscles in your buttocks and soles as if you are holding your pee; as you exhale, rotate your hips slightly and press the indentation on your lower back on your hand to smooth it out and at the same time relax the muscles in your buttocks and soles. The name of this exercise is “Pelvic Tilt Exercise”. You will see yourself benefiting from it.
If you are short take a 65 cm Pilates ball and if you are tall, a 75 cm ball. Every night, before you go to sleep, sit on the ball securely and carefully and rotate your hips to right and left, starting from your waist, and make small and light jumps on the ball. Again on the ball, but this time be on all fours with your arms and chest on the ball and rotate your hips in a circular motion. You can take your ball to the hospital and repeat these moves in your room to facilitate the movement of the baby through the pelvic bone.
Sit in your bed at night and extend your legs straight, and as you inhale pull up your legs towards you and exhale as you feel the stretching behind your legs and let your feet relax. Repeat this exercise 10 times. Follow this by rotating your feet right and left from your ankles down. Repeat the rotating move several times during the day. This will ensure that all the muscles in your leg work out, not just your ankles. If you repeat this exercise before sleep, your cramps will be reduced.
Lastly, do not forget to do relaxation exercises. Lie down in a comfortable position; you can choose a soothing piece of music and a dimly lit environment. If you are still having difficulty in falling asleep, you can also try the relaxation exercises when you are lying down in your bed. Give yourself simple prompts like “my right foot is now relaxed, my right leg is relaxed…” and let your entire body relax this way. This exercise is important in the sense that it shows you how tight your muscles are and helps you perceive the significance of the comfort of relaxing and the skill of letting go.
Being able to let go and relax, especially during labour, will help you to complete the whole process in the easiest way possible and let you help your baby as well.
3- Walking: There are no risks associated with walking. Especially in the final weeks of the pregnancy, the regular walks you take will facilitate the downward move of the baby in the birth canal and pave the way for an easy delivery.