Article Updated March 6, 2018
This article was written in collaboration with Catherine Germain from Bouger Pour Ma Santé.
Many active mothers can find pregnancy a bit long given that the sports they played before becoming pregnant are now too dangerous for their condition. You should get valuable information about the topic during your prenatal preparation (doctor, nurse, books, prenatal classes, videos) to prevent risks and complications.
There are myths surrounding pregnancy and physical exercise. For example, playing sports increases the risk of miscarriage. Women who have jogged for months or years should stop during pregnancy. Women who are having twins or triplets should not exercise. A new mother who plays sports can see a significant reduction in her milk production. Or you can’t exercise on your back when pregnant. As you can see, we hear all sorts of things, but much of it isn’t true.
In fact, high-intensity team sports and/or sports that can lead to falls or hits to the stomach, such as basketball, hockey, soccer or tennis, should be avoided. I would also add gymnastics, scuba diving, high altitude activities, alpine skiing, skating and mountain biking to the list.
A woman who has previously had a miscarriage during the first trimester, who has a history of premature childbirth or who has been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease should speak to a health professional about playing sports and restrictions based on their situation. Once again, it’s important to be informed by someone who specialises in the field, such as a kinesiologist. They specialise in exercises that use safe movements and activities which are adapted to and useful for pregnant women. Many programs are offered and varied, and regular sessions will allow you to reach your goals and enjoy your workout.
Official recommendations suggest cardiorespiratory activities mixed with muscle exercises and exercises to improve flexibility throughout pregnancy.
Unless otherwise indicated, as a general rule, pregnant women should do average intensity cardiorespiratory exercises 3-4 times a week for at least 30 minutes per session. Then again, 15 minutes is better than none. Ideally, muscle exercises and stretching should complete your workout to get the best benefits possible. Abdominal exercises should be adapted to your condition to avoid severe diastasis (spreading of the muscles), especially after the first trimester. This can lead to severe back pain. Never do sit-ups. You should work on the stomach’s transversal muscles and the pelvic floor.
Official recommendations suggest cardiorespiratory activities mixed with muscle exercises and exercises to improve flexibility throughout pregnancy, but with lower frequency and intensity in the last weeks. You have to breathe normally during the muscle exercises and avoid holding your breath to prevent increasing blood pressure. This can harm pregnant women. During prenatal meetings I hold one-on-one, or in my online videos, I always tell you this so you can prepare for childbirth. After that, listen to your body!
Here are a few exercises that are generally safe for pregnant women: walking, swimming (pool exercises), dancing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, adapted workouts, golf (while modifying the rotation technique over time due to your growing stomach). Yoga, Pilates and tai-chi are also safe as long as the teacher is aware of the specificities of pregnant women and suggests proper exercises.
Voila! This quick overview of possible exercises and risks during pregnancy should help guide you in your choices when preparing for Childbirth. Don’t forget, for most people; there are more risks doing nothing than remaining active throughout your pregnancy. Get active, and you’ll see – postnatal recovery will be much easier!
Watch these videos:
- Prenatal Exercises
- The Pelvic Floor (in french)
- Aqua-form and Pregnancy (in french)
- Massages for Pregnant Women (in french)
I also wrote an article about exercises and pregnancy.
The Baby Expert
Kinesiologist and founder
Bouger pour ma santé