A positive frame of mind
It’s usual to feel apprehensive as well as excited about impending parenthood and such issues as the birth, money, and changing relationships. Accepting your worries as a first step can help you move forward and start to enjoy your pregnancy, and find solutions. Staying physically active contributes to your sense of well-being, helping to improve your moods, sleep patterns, and body image. Exercise also eases a range of pregnancy problems (nausea, aches and pains, and low energy) and lowers the risk of hemorrhoids, varicose veins, and even gestational diabetes.
Your pregnant body
During pregnancy, your musculoskeletal system changes, affecting the way you exercise and the amount you do. To prepare for birth, the hormones relaxin and progesterone almost immediately begin to loosen the ligaments in your pelvic cradle (and elsewhere). This makes your joints more flexible so the baby can pass through, but you may feel unstable as you walk. As your belly grows, your abdominal muscles, which stabilize your back, stretch and become thinner to accommodate your baby, thus making them weaker. You may also feel off-balance as you adjust (and readjust) to a changing center of gravity as your baby grows and your weight shifts forward. In addition, a growing baby puts pressure on your bladder and pelvic-floor muscles, making certain types of exercise uncomfortable to do, and on your lungs, causing breathlessness even if you are normally very fit.
How much to exercise
You are the best judge of what level of exercise suits you, but as a rule of thumb don’t exert yourself more than you were used to before pregnancy. If you haven’t exercised before, you can start some gentle activites in your first or second trimester. It’s also normal to feel very tired during early pregnancy, so get plenty of rest as well. Consult your doctor before any exercise, especially if you have high or low blood pressure, are anemic, a heavy smoker, have a BMI greater than 40 or lower than 12, or are expecting more than one baby.
Low- or no-impact exercise is ideal while you are pregnant, since it is easiest on your joints. Don’t forget that any exercise that doesn’t require you to try to maintain your balance over uneven or slippery ground is best. The main goal of exercising through pregnancy is to strengthen your muscles, improve your circulation, ease any backache, and help you feel well. It’s important to avoid any exercise or activities that require jumpy and jerky movements, take sharp changes of direction, or is so vigorous that it raises your core temperature or puts excessive strain on your cardiovascular system or joints. In addition, impact sports and sports that involve a risk of falling―such as cycling, horse riding, downhill skiing, and contact sports―are not advisable.