In 2015, I had the privilege of working with a women and children’s hospital in China, teaching Chinese nurses about women’s health and parenting from a western perspective.
During this time, I learned about traditional pregnancy and postpartum practices that most Chinese women still follow today. Doctors in China instruct women to stop exercise from the moment their pregnancy is confirmed. After the birth one month of bed rest is enforced, usually by a mother in law.
Perhaps not surprisingly, pregnant women in Australian often report being given conflicting advice about exercising from various sources such as social media networks and family members. Only fifteen years ago, back in 1985, women in Australia were recommended not to engage in physical activity while pregnant.
What are the current guidelines about exercise during pregnancy?
The current focus of research shows the benefits of exercise while pregnant, these are:
- Reduces the risk of pre-term delivery
- Decreased back pain
- Improved energy
- Reduces the risk of preeclampsia and gestational diabetes
- Improved postpartum recovery
- Shorter first stage of labour
- Enhanced mood and body image
- Health benefits for the baby
Women are encouraged to exercise for 30 minutes most days of the week to experience benefits. Yet, despite the research, many women are not reaching the recommendations.
When women were asked in a study about the barriers to exercising during pregnancy, they reported:
- lack of time
- lack of energy
- physical discomfort
- being unsure about the safety of being physically active
So what is safe exercise for pregnancy?
- A healthy woman with a normal pregnancy can continue her regular exercise routine after confirming with a physician
- If starting a new exercise routine, start and progress slowly
- Avoid exercising in extreme air pressure (e.g., exertion at altitudes above 6,000 ft. and scuba diving)
- Avoid contact sports and activities
- After the first trimester avoid exercising while lying on your back and motionless standing
- Breathing is important, avoid holding your breath
- Aim to exercise in a moderate temperature environment and maintain proper hydration
- Due to impaired balance, avoid activities with a high risk of falling (e.g., biking)
- If needed, increase calorie intake to meet the energy costs of exercise and pregnancy
Pregnancy is a time where health and remaining active needs to be prioritised. Beachside osteopaths understand that physical discomfort can be a factor preventing exercise. We work with many pregnant women to build a program of appropriate exercise and provide treatments so that they can remain active during pregnancy. How can we help you?