It is amazing that even in this day and age the year 2020, that only 3 out of 10 women are actually meeting the physical activity guidelines whilst pregnant! Yes, you’re probably sitting there thinking these statistics can’t be right.
However, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics health survey 2011 -2012, for pregnant Australian women only 30% were sufficiently active, 54% were insufficiently active and 16% were inactive altogether.
These are very alarming statistics when we know that exercise is beneficial not only for the woman while pregnant but exercise also has increased benefits to the unborn child.
The Australian recommended physical activity guidelines for pregnant women include: at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week and at least 2 weights sessions per week. By the statistics above, unfortunately Australian mothers are not meeting these recommendations.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics health survey 2011-2012, out of the 30% of pregnant women who met the physical activity guidelines, more than half (56%) did undertake some exercise specifically for fitness recreation or sport, The other 34% walked as they’re only form of exercise and only 14% under took some moderate activity apart from walking.
A study by Morkved at el 2007 specifically designed exercise programs and outcomes showed preventative pelvic girdle pain and reduce severity of back pain. Furthermore Barakat at el 2009 showed walking, joint mobilisation and resistance exercises (3 × 35 minute sessions a week) did not affect foetal cardiovascular responses, maternal anaemia, type of birth, gestational age of birth, or the new baby’s body size or overall health.
In short, both studies showed that exercise either reduced pain – especially pelvic girdle pain and that exercise doesn’t affect the unborn baby.
As a woman’s pregnancy progresses, the body goes through significant changes such as increase laxity of joints, changes to the centre of gravity and an increase in resting heart rate. Therefore, modifications to their exercise program must be considered. Consulting with a healthcare professional such as an exercise physiologist or physiotherapist with specialist skills in prenatal exercise should be considered.
Furthermore, a range of functional based exercises such as squats (sit to stands), rotational based exercises and strength work will not only assist the mother during pregnancy but also once the baby arrives. Regular exercise during pregnancy can also decrease the risk of pregnancy related complications such as pregnancy induced hypertension and pre-eclampsia and even gestational diabetes.
There are definitely some exercises that should be avoided altogether such as lying on your back after four months for a prolonged period of time. This is because you’re enlarged uterus could decrease the flow of blood returning from your lower limbs and also more importantly it can decrease the blood flow to a major artery which in turn decreases oxygen return to your unborn baby.
For exercising when pregnant consult your doctor or healthcare professional. You may need to modify your existing exercise program or choose a suitable new one if you were exercising very little before getting pregnant. Also you may wish to educate yourself more about the dos and don’t’s during pregnancy to enhance your knowledge as to what your body is going through during this time.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Physical Activity during pregnancy 2011-2012.
Morkved et al (2007). Does group training during pregnancy prevent lumbopelvic pain? A randomised controlled trial. Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Http://doi.org/10.1080/00016340601089651.
Baraket et al (2009). Resistance exercise training during pregnancy and newborn’s birth size: a randomised controlled trial. International Journal of Obstetrics. Http://doi.1038/IMO.2009.150