Pregnancy is a magical moment, but also a period in which the body undergoes several transformations. Weight gain, stretch marks, swollen feet, pain are some of the most common discomforts.
It has been known for a long time that practicing physical exercises helps to alleviate such discomfort and is essential for a more peaceful and healthy pregnancy. In addition, it brings benefits to the baby and also to the woman after pregnancy.
However, there are still many doubts around the subject: at what stage do you start exercising? It is not dangerous? What are the most recommended activities? Is it really necessary to practice physical activity during this period?
Renata Tarevnic, collaborating professor at Centro Universitário Celso Lisboa, explains that physical activities during pregnancy guarantee many maternal and fetal benefits. Below she highlights the main advantages:
- Relief of pain in the lower back;
- Decreased edema;
- Improved maternal cardiorespiratory fitness;
- Control of weight gain;
- If the mother does physical activity in the water, the baby when born has that environment as already recognized;
- Baby heart rate control – better in active than sedentary mothers.
Changes in a woman’s body during pregnancy
To know which activities are most suitable for the period, it is essential to first understand the changes that occur in a woman’s body at each stage of pregnancy.
Ligaments and joints are becoming looser and more unstable, which makes women more prone to strain or joint injuries and can also cause poor posture.
The woman is “gradually losing her waist” and, in some cases where exercises were already part of her routine and the body is in good shape, this change can alarm her. However, it is important to remember that weight gain is natural and necessary for the baby’s growth.
Hormonal releases increase the volume of the breasts and produce droplets of milky secretion in preparation for breastfeeding. In addition, the breasts may become more sensitive.
The bladder feels pressure from the uterus which increases and the expectant mother may need to urinate more often than before. Constipation can also start to bother you.
Blood pressure changes and may become lower in the first few months. These changes can sometimes cause dizziness. Anyway, it is a quarter of pure adaptation.
Posture changes as the baby grows and the mother’s belly becomes rounder. The shoulders may also become more stooped because of the greater weight of the breasts. Weight gain becomes more noticeable.
In this middle stage of pregnancy, the expectant mother feels more instability in the ligaments and joints around the pelvis. The rectus abdominis muscles pull apart to accommodate the baby’s growth. Water retention becomes more common.
The woman usually feels an increase in energy, and it is during this period that the first exciting movements of the baby in the belly, or the first “kicks” take place.
Care must be taken not to overdo the activities. A balance of relaxation, exercise and fresh air will keep the expectant mother in top shape.
The baby is now well grown and more comfortably accommodated inside the mother’s womb. This can be cozy for him, but the woman may feel a little uncomfortable as she experiences steady weight gain throughout the pregnancy.
Changes in posture and walking are more pronounced, and this is the most common time to suffer pain and discomfort in the lower back. Hormone levels keep joints looser, which makes body alignment and correct posture even more important.
The expansion in the mother’s uterus can cause pressure against the diaphragm, causing shortness of breath. Learning some breathing patterns (Pilates and Yoga) help alleviate these symptoms.
Many women experience reduced concentration and short-term memory seems to deteriorate at this stage.
The most suitable physical activities for pregnant women
Cláudia Heringer Henriques, physical educator and creator of Heringer Fitness, physical training specialized in women’s health, pregnant and postpartum women, explains that healthy pregnant women, with medical clearance, should choose physical activities that favor muscle strengthening and that, above all, are pleasurable. “Pregnancy is already a time of many anxieties, so it’s important to practice an exercise that helps you relax and relieve tensions,” she says.
Generally, women start exercising in the second trimester of pregnancy, when nausea and drowsiness have passed, explains Cláudia. “At this stage, it is recommended to strengthen the stabilizing muscles of the trunk to help support and avoid lower back pain. The shoulder and back region must also be strengthened to support the new activities of motherhood, such as breastfeeding, rocking and carrying the baby’s weight that increases every month”.
“We can say that the most appropriate thing for each woman is to continue what she does with the adaptations for her gestational stages. For sedentary women, the recommendation is to start with lighter exercises, preferably accompanied by qualified professionals”, highlights the physical educator.
Renata adds that the most suitable physical activities are those that guarantee less impact on the joints (water aerobics, swimming, pilates and walking). “In the first trimester, no physical activity is recommended, due to the risk of miscarriage (up to 12 weeks). After this period, look for the aforementioned activities that will be prescribed by Physical Education professionals according to the gestational period and individuality of each woman”, she says.
Below you can find out more about the main activities recommended for pregnant women:
1. Water aerobics
Water aerobics for pregnant women is highly recommended for its benefits to physical and emotional well-being. In addition to being the safest way for the fetus. “Water activities provide the development of your exercises in an environment with less impact on joint structures and skeletal muscles, and provide better control of physiological parameters”, says Renata.
“The benefits achieved by hydrogymnastics during pregnancy are scientifically proven, and are directed during the classes to: postural correction exercises; an optimization of the circulatory flow; improvement of respiratory distress; and also, through relaxation exercises, to allow a better return to the conditions close to baseline after exercise, in addition to promoting a calmer attitude in the gestational period. It also acts as an important helper in controlling body weight”, adds the professor.
As with any activity, the practice of water aerobics requires medical clearance and some care, such as caution with the water temperature (which must be below 30 degrees) and attention with movements to avoid causing back pain or more serious injuries. It is also essential to follow up with a professional in the area.
Swimming is also a very suitable physical activity for the gestation period. The fact that it is performed in the aquatic environment allows the woman’s body to receive several benefits from the properties of water, contributing to the improvement of some common discomforts of the period, such as swelling, back pain, among others.
In addition, when exercising in this environment, the pregnant woman will probably have a feeling of greater security, since in the water the risk of falls and sharp impacts is very reduced.
In the water, the whole body is worked, without there being great risk of injury. However, as for any type of physical activity with pregnant women, it is essential to have a medical prescription, as well as the follow-up of a professional in the area when performing the exercises.
It is still essential that the pregnancy is taking place within the standards. In this way, swimming can probably be performed until the end of pregnancy.
Pilates is another activity that is very suitable for pregnancy, mainly because the exercises focus on the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles, which tend to weaken during pregnancy.
Physical activity combines flexibility, strength, body awareness, relaxation and breathing. The exercises are based on movements done while contracting the abdomen and pelvic floor muscles.
If the woman was already doing Pilates before pregnancy, she will probably be able to continue. But still, it is essential to talk to the obstetrician and let the teacher know that she is pregnant.
For women who are considering starting this activity during pregnancy, it is generally recommended that it be started only in the second trimester.
It is worth noting that some positions, such as prone or lying with the belly up, are not recommended from the middle of pregnancy. Therefore, it is always essential to have the guidance of a professional expert in the method. The best way is to find a Pilates class specially designed for pregnant women, so the instructor will know exactly what to do and what not to do.
A great exercise for pregnant women is walking, as it helps you stay in shape without straining your knees and ankles. In addition, it is a physical activity that does not require large expenditures (just adequate clothes and tennis shoes) and can usually be performed throughout the nine months of pregnancy. But, of course, it all depends on the woman’s habits and the doctor’s guidelines in each case…
If the pregnant woman was already in the habit of walking before becoming pregnant, the doctor will probably recommend that she continue. However, if she was a sedentary person, she should start slowly, with very light walks and, perhaps, only in the second semester. It is always best to strictly follow the doctor’s instructions.
It is important to always have a bottle of water on hand to avoid dehydration. And also avoid walking in times of strong sun or when it is very hot. The ideal is to always wear light and comfortable clothes.
Yoga, preferably combined with cardiovascular exercise (such as walking), is a good way to keep fit during pregnancy. Practice helps make you more flexible, tone your muscles, and improve balance and circulation. All this with little or no impact on the joints.
It is also very beneficial in this period because it works with breathing and relaxation techniques (which can be extremely useful for childbirth and also later to deal with the demands of motherhood).
Like any other exercise, Yoga requires extra care during pregnancy and should only be practiced if the doctor authorizes it. It is very important to attend classes with instructors who have the experience and knowledge to work with pregnant women.
Only the obstetrician can guide…
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