Is it safe to exercise when pregnant?

Is it safe to exercise when pregnant? Image

I’d never been pregnant before and I’m not going to lie, it’s really overwhelming at first.

Those initial weeks when you find out you’re now in possession of something more precious than your mobile or iPad can be quite daunting. If anyone got hold of my computer during those times and looked at my google history they’d think I was bonkers.

In my first trimester (look at me getting down with the preggo lingo) I spent hours typing questions into Google like it was the all-knowing, all-seeing Oracle of childbirth. Things like: Can you eat calamari when pregnant? Why should I sleep on my left? How much caffeine does one mug of tea have? Can you use an electric sander when pregnant? Can you use hair dye? Can you ever drink too much decaf tea? Is smoked salmon classed as raw fish? Do I have Restless Leg Syndrome? How hot can I have my bath? Will people being angry/ shouting upset my baby? Does constantly bending over squash your babies bones? Why are my feet swollen? Does chocolate really contain caffeine? Does spicy food make unborn babies hiccup? Is it normal for hiccups to last 20 minutes? What do you do with a birthing ball? What’s the difference between a pram and a pushchair? And so on…

There were a lot more personal questions, but I’ll save myself the embarrassment. I quickly found out anything I thought was weird, actually isn’t that weird at all. There are mum’s talking about their personal problems/ lady issues all over the internet – loud and proud. It seems there’s no time for prudeness where pregnancy’s concerned.

One thing (well apart from all the things above) I had no idea about was whether I could carry on going to the gym? I didn’t plan to spend nine months lounging around scoffing cakes, proclaiming, “well, I am eating for two now”. The thought of trying to shift four stone post birth, with a crying baby lent over my shoulder and sick dribbling down my back, didn’t appeal.

It turns out a lot of other mums-to-be are clueless too when it comes to pregnancy exercise. Most are very cautious about going to the gym, despite worrying about piling on the pounds. There’s definitely a lack of information about what exercise, if any, pregnant women should/ can do.

My midwife was very old skool, definitely in the ‘you must not eat any seafood’ camp.  Which is ridiculous. Most of my diet was made up of fish/ seafood. Luckily, wise doctors on the NHS have research to prove all cooked shellfish/ seafood is fine (all fish, apart form shark, swordfish and marlin is good for your health and your baby). There’s a great NHS link here if you’re concerned about what you can/ can’t eat.

Anyway, I digress. My midwife told me on our first meeting swimming, cycling and yoga was not a good idea during pregnancy. I thought it seemed a little over the top, but took her opinion seriously as she’s obviously the expert. However, after chatting to the management team and personal trainers at Virgin Active I quickly found out this pregnancy myth was a load of tosh. You just need to be careful not to over do it.

My due date flew by with no signs of a baby, as suspected (I’m late for everything) so at 40 weeks and 3 days I went for a swim. Despite the look of terror on the lifeguard’s face as I sauntered (read: waddled) out in my swimsuit during his shift, I loved it.

I highly recommend swimming all the way through pregnancy, if you can face wearing a swimsuit in public with a huge bump. I found it a great start to the day – forty minutes every morning to stay focused and calm. It gave me the perfect opportunity to clear my mind, concentrate on my breathing and think about the baby growing inside me. It apparently really helps during labour too (which I believe it did!).

My local Virgin Active in Solihull has an outside swimming pool, so I was often swimming in the sunshine, 40 lengths each time and loving every minute of it. Being outside, gliding through the water, feeling mellow and chilled out, made me feel closer to nature and somehow closer to the baby. Despite the odd dead fly/ manky leaf lurking around.

I found yoga really relaxing during my pregnancy too. A great way to stay happy, healthy and strong. And perfect for practicing breathing techniques while stretching, relaxing and staying calm. The main rule is no twisting or stretching your abdominal muscles.

Positions like The Cobra are out, as are any poses where you need to lie on your tummy. In your second/ third trimester you need to stop doing any positions lying on your back too. Apart from those simple rules yoga is definitely a pregnancy must do, I highly recommend it.

Downward Dog feels amazing, great to really stretch out your over-tired, over-used legs. The same with Child’s Pose. Most yoga teachers are really knowledgeable about pregnancy dos and don’ts, so have a quick chat before the class starts.

I also carried on cycling until my 39th week. I love my bike and the freedom of the whizzing around with the wind in your hair. As my bump got bigger I actually found it easier to cycle to the shops than walk/ waddle.
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