There is no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.
Jill Churchill, O Magazine, May 2003
We all know that keeping physically fit is extremely beneficial to our health – no matter what stage of life we find ourselves in. This is especially true of pregnant women. Not only does keeping fit benefit your own health and that of your precious unborn child – but it also prepares your body for the taxing task of giving birth and a speedy recovery thereafter.
Pelvic floor exercises are especially beneficial to the labour process. The pelvic floor is the set of muscles that forms the base to your pelvis. Keeping these muscles toned during pregnancy will ensure that they function more efficiently during childbirth. Regular exercise of the pelvic floor muscles will also give you greater control, which will in turn help you to identify and relax these muscles whilst giving birth. Continue to do pelvic floor exercises after birth to ensure a rapid return to normal. Overall fitness will help your muscles and organs cope with the demands of pregnancy and ensure that you have the muscle tone, strength and endurance required for labour.
Naturally, when embarking on any fitness regime your doctor’s word is the law – especially if you have been relatively inactive up until now. Even when your doctor has given you the green light, always trust your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right – rethink it; and don’t push yourself, do only as much as feels comfortable. Be especially careful not to overheat or dehydrate – both conditions are detrimental to you and your baby. Steam rooms, saunas and exercising at extreme altitudes are a definite no-no.
Choose wisely – now is not the time for overly strenuous or high-risk activities. Avoid any workout that poses a risk for falling or joint stress. Warming up is crucial but be aware of overstretching. A hormone called relaxin has infiltrated your body in order to let your uterus stretch and your pelvic floor move. However, this same hormone makes your muscles and ligaments prone to strain. Ideal exercises during a healthy pregnancy include walking, swimming and yoga:
Swimming is the ideal exercise during pregnancy. The buoyancy of the water ensures that no undue strain is placed on baby or you; and at the same time you get a great muscular and cardiovascular workout.
Walking is easy to do and requires no special equipment – except for comfortable shoes! Depending on the stage of your pregnancy, adjust your pace to ensure that you don’t overexert yourself.
Yoga is a wonderfully gentle form of exercise that keeps your joints mobile while improving circulation and breathing. Be sure to let your instructor know that you are pregnant.
A wonderful ‘side-effect’ of being physically fit is the positive benefit exercise has on your emotional and mental state as well as on your sleep patterns – all things that any expectant mother will tell you become remarkably difficult to stay in control of.