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Being Active in Pregnancy

Being active is an important part of keeping well physically and mentally. During pregnancy being active can help you prepare and cope with the pressures of labour and the early days of parenthood.

You might always have been an active person or finding out you are having a baby might be the time you decide to include more exercise in your life.

Being active benefits you and your unborn baby. These good habits are going to be positive for the whole family’s wellbeing for the future too.

Why Exercise During Pregnancy? 

  • Controls maternal weight gain and improves mental wellbeing
  • More chance of a shorter labour and fewer contractions
  • Lower chance of emergency caesarean section
  • Less pelvic and lower back pain
  • Healthier blood pressure
  • Lower risk of pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes
  • Less chance of an early baby.
Dive Deeper

How Much Exercise? 

It is a good idea to discuss exercise with your midwife at your booking appointment.

If you have always been an active person most pregnant women can continue with the activity they enjoy. Your midwife will be able to reassure you about this. They can give individual advice about any health conditions that might be affected by some types of exercise.

Pregnant women should aim for about 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise across the week. So about 30 minutes 5 times a week – or you might decide to do it in shorter bursts.

Moderate Aerobic Exercise

This means;

  • Your heart beats a bit faster and you might get a bit sweaty
  • You can still talk ok but wouldn’t be able to sing.

If you were already taking this much exercise, or more, before you got pregnant then you can usually carry on.

What to Look Out For

  • Be aware of your body and how it is coping. You might need to adapt and change how you exercise as your bump grows.
  • Take care to warm up and cool down before exercise – this reduces the chances of injury.
  • Cooling down afterwards is also important for allowing your heart rate to return to normal.

New to Exercise

If you are new to exercise you should take it slowly and build up to the advised amount.

  • Gradually increase how long and how often you exercise.
  • Listen to your body and don’t push yourself too hard. You are taking an important step towards good health and there is no rush.

Exercising with your partner and / or friends can be a good idea. You can get fit together. They can encourage you and help you notice when you need a break.

Find out more about pelvic health during pregnancy

What Kinds of Exercise?

Most kinds of exercise can continue throughout pregnancy. It is important that you choose activity you enjoy. It doesn’t have to be complicated or cost a lot.

  • Walking is a great free exercise – walking a bit faster to the shop and back can easily add up to the advised 150 minutes.
  • Exercising in water is good during pregnancy. It supports your weight and reduces the risk of aches and strains.
  • Yoga and Pilates are good ways of building fitness gently. They are good for posture and the core strength especially important in pregnancy.
  • Doing the housework or dancing round the kitchen all count!

Most kinds of activity can still be enjoyed in pregnancy. If you have any concerns or questions about this speak to the team who care for you for advice.

Activities to Avoid

There are a few activities that are not advised. These include;

  • Contact sports such as martial arts or rugby (although you could still do the training even if you have to miss matches).
  • Sports using rackets / bats where the ball will travel at high speed.
  • Sports where you risk a fall like horse riding or skiing.
  • You should not scuba dive or climb to high altitudes.

If you go to a gym or exercise class you should always let the instructor know you are pregnant.

You should not do exercise flat on your back after 16 weeks pregnant this can obstruct some blood vessels and reduce blood flow for you and your baby.

After Childbirth 

Pregnancy and childbirth cause a lot of physical and emotional changes for women. You may have been able to maintain or improve your fitness during pregnancy or it may have been more difficult for you. You may have had a straightforward delivery and recover quickly, or it may have been more complicated and take longer.

When you feel ready, beginning very gentle exercise at your own pace is good for physical and mental health. 

Most women can gradually increase their exercise and build up their fitness over time, getting stronger and helping to prevent health problems in the future.  

Find out more about pelvic health after your baby is born

Who Can Help?

If you feel worried and want more advice you can speak to your midwife.

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text Chathealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of the Healthy Child Programme team.

To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum below.

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