The Benefits of Exercise during Pregnancy

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Pregnancy and giving birth are both physically demanding on the body. Building or maintaining a reasonable level of fitness will help you manage the physical and emotional demands of pregnancy, birth and early parenting.

All pregnant women who are not experiencing complications should participate in aerobic and strength-conditioning exercises as part of a healthy lifestyle. They should also include regular pelvic floor exercises in their program (please refer to section on how to do pelvic floor exercises correctly for more information). The goal should be to engage in regular physical activity to maintain a reasonable level of fitness throughout pregnancy, without trying to reach peak fitness.

There are many physical and emotional benefits to exercise during during pregnancy:

  • improved mood

  • increased self-esteem

  • increased energy levels

  • improved fitness and strength

  • improved sleep and management of insomnia

  • physical preparation for the demands of labour

  • fewer delivery complications in women who are physically active during pregnancy

  • may improve recovery following birth

  • improved posture

  • improved circulation

  • weight management

  • stress relief

  • decreased risk of developing pregnancy-induced high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia

  • reduced risk of anxiety and depression

  • reduced back and pelvic pain

  • may shorten labour

  • reduced risk of urinary incontinence following birth (if incorporating pelvic floor exercises).

Before exercising when pregnant, consult your doctor or healthcare professional. Discuss appropriate physical activities suited to your stage of pregnancy, health and fitness level. Don’t just do an exercise because the pregnant woman next to you is doing it. You may need to modify your existing exercise program or choose a suitable new one if you were exercising very little before getting pregnant.

There are so many options for enjoyable movement and maintaining fitness and strength during pregnancy! Some generally safe exercise includes walking, swimming, water-based exercise, cycling and low impact muscle strengthening exercises (including pilates and pelvic floor exercises). Have a look at the ‘Exercise’ section on this website for more information about exercise suggestions in pregnancy.


References

  1. Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Exercise in Pregnancy (position statement). Last updated July 2016. https://www.ranzcog.edu.au/RANZCOG_SITE/media/RANZCOG-MEDIA/Women%27s%20Health/Statement%20and%20guidelines/Clinical-Obstetrics/Exercise-during-pregnancy-(C-Obs-62)-New-July-2016.pdf?ext=.pdf

  2. Lewis, E. 2014. Exercise in pregnancy. AFP. 43(8), 541-542

  3. Sports Medicine Australia. Exercise in Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period (position statement). Last updated 19/07/16. https://sma.org.au/sma-site-content/uploads/2017/08/SMA-Position-Statement-Exercise-Pregnancy.pdf

  4. Aladabe, D, Ribeiro, DC., Milosavljevic, S & Dawn Bussey M. 2012. Pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain and its relationship with relaxin levels during pregnancy: a systematic review. Eur Spine J, 21, 1769-76.

  5. Borg-Stein JP, Fogelman, DJ & Ackerman, KE. 2011. Exercise, sports participation, and musculoskeletal disorders of pregnancy and postpartum. Semin Neurol, 31, 413-22.

  6. Evenson, KR, Mottola, MF, Owe, KM, Rousham, EK & Brown, WJ. 2014b. Summary of international guidelines for physical activity after pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol Surv, 69, 407-14.

  7. Melzer, K, Schutz, Y, Boulvain M & Kayser, B. 2010. Physical activity and pregnancy: cardiovascular adaptations, recommendations and pregnancy outcomes. Sports Med, 40, 493-507.

  8. Morkved, S. & Bo, K. 2014. Effect of pelvic floor muscle training during pregnancy and after childbirth on prevention and treatment of urinary incontinence: a systematic review. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 48, 1-13.

  9. Nascimento, SL, Surita, FG & Cecatti, JG. 2012. Physical exercise during pregnancy: a systematic review. Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol, 24, 387-94.

  10. Zavorsky, GS & Logno, LD. 2011. Exercise guidelines in pregnancy: new perspectives. Sports Med, 41, 345-60.

  11. World Health Organisation. Global recommendations on physical activity for health. 2011. https://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/physical-activity-recommendations-18-64years.pdf

Authors:

Peta Titter & Dr. Rhea Psereckis

Marco van der Heide