The topic needs a long and detailed explanation; my next few posts will concentrate on the Pre & Postnatal Exercise Recommendations. First I will take short route to explain the physiology of pregnancy briefly.
In the past exercise during pregnancy is considered taboo, and pregnant women was encourage to adopt a sedentary lifestyle (you can get the concept from the Dhivehi word “Baliveinnun”). But now pregnancy is considered as a unique time for behavior modification, and is no longer considered a time for confinement.
Sports Scientists and Medical Doctors confirm the following as concern areas when exercising during pregnancy.
1 – Miscarriage: A concern for many women considering and exercise program during pregnancy, particularly on the first trimester. There are number of reports indicating that running or aerobics does not increase the rate of spontaneous miscarriage (Jarret and Spellacy, 1984; Clapp, 1998)
2 – Congenital defects: It appears that continuing regular exercise does not increase the chance of a birth defect in a baby.
3 – Premature outcome: All the available evidence indicates that continuing or starting a regular exercise program does not increase a woman’s chances of either rupturing her membranes or going into premature labour (Lokey et al, 1991)
4 – Foetal development: Clapp (1998) states, that if a women exercises 20 minutes at a moderate intensity (intensity to measured using the Rate of Perceived Exertion) three times a week right through out the mid and late pregnancy, she will restrict foetal fat deposition without interfering with the growth of other foetal tissues.
Physiological changes during pregnancy
1 – Cardiovascular adaptations: The pregnant mothers body works harder than ever before demanding more oxygen, this means the symptoms of tiredness occurs sooner.
2 – Thermoregulatory adaptations: Feotal hyperthermia, leading to abnormal foetal development, is a concern if the mothers core temperature is elevated following exercise. In addressing this concern the mother’s resting body temperature is reduced and her ability to get rid of the heat the skin is improved.
3 – Respiratory adaptations: Feeling of breathlessness is coomon with a mild exertion. Due to the physiological changes in the body (rib cage elevates and widens to compensate for the restricted movement of diaphram) the deapth of every breath taken increases by 50%.
4 - Hormonal adaptations:
Oestrogen: stimulates the growth of the uterus and breasts, and high level of oestrogen can result in excess water retention, nausea (specially in the first trimester) and joint looseness.
Progestrone: Thickens and develops the walls of the uterus, controlling and relaxing to stop contracting excessively.
Relaxin: Softens ligaments, cartilage and the cervix, allowing these tissues to spread during deliver. This is a major area you should be careful whilst doing stretching exercises.
Insulin: resistance increases during pregnancy, this make the pregnant women’s pattern of energy utilization similar to that of a mild diabetic. In mid and late pregnancy insulin resistance serves to utilize more fat for maternal energy and rest during exercise.
5 – Musculoskeletal adaptations: The position of the growing uterus together with the weight gain causes expectant mother’s center of gravity a shift (up and out) increasing the mechanical stress on particular areas (Wang and Apgar, 1998). Becoming increasing lordotic the stomach muscles can be strained as they stretch and the back may become sore. When the belly grows through pregnancy strong abdominals are needed to support the weight of the baby and to protect the back, also will give the muscles of the uterus some extra help during delivery.
With reference to the above information it is clearly understood that it’s important to prepare yourself for pregnancy, doing some fitness programs strengthening your cardiovascular fitness and strengthening your muscles specially the abdominals and the pelvic floor muscles are vital.